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Minorities Demand End to Land Concessions

Ethnic minorities from 15 provinces on Wednesday called on the government to suspend land concessions they say are hurting their communities and daily income.

The government has provided at least 1 million hectares of land in these provinces to concessions, according to Chhit Sam Ath, executive director of NGO Forum.

This has led to clashes between companies and residents and “human rights violations,” he said.

“We urge the royal government to suspend concessions that have caused an impact to ethnic minorities in 15 provinces,” said Ven Samin, a representative of the Suoy ethnic group in Kampong Speu province, as she sobbed in a press conference.

“The concession holder was not consulting with the local community, [and working] without the agreement of residents,” she said, as other representatives from the provinces of Kampong Thom, Mondulkiri and Rattanakkiri pointed to the impact on their traditional culture, especially forests where their ancestors are buried.

“Where there is investment, land and forest for wildlife will be lost,” Ven Samin said.

In February, ethnic representatives submitted a report to the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in which they said they were subject to violations and discrimination committed by Cambodian authorities and asked the UN to intervene.

On Thursday the UN committee issued a statement saying it was “particularly concerned about reports of the rapid granting of concessions on land traditionally occupied by indigenous peoples without full consideration or exhaustion of procedures provided for.”

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith, said developments in concessions were in the long-term interest of minority groups.

“Firstly we plan to preserve their cultures and keep their sacred places, and we already planned to allocate land for them,” he said.

Minority representatives say they want to be involved in concession decisions where their land is involved.