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Cambodian Minorities Join Meetings at UN Headquarters in New York

An ethnic minority Cambodian boy, left, stands next to his mother at a village in Mondul Kiri province some 265 kilometers (165 miles) northeast Phnom Penh, file photo.

A group representing Cambodia’s indigenous communities traveled to New York this week, meeting with UN officials and other minority groups from 70 countries.

Cambodia’s minorities face a host of problems, particularly as they try to maintain a way of life that relies on traditions and the forest, which is threatened by economic development, illegal logging and other woes.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues aims to address governance issues that fall under the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Pheap Sochea, a youth representative, said he had come to raise the issues faced by Cambodian minorities, “regarding land issues, natural resources, forestry, mining, and hydropower dams.”

“The development in Cambodia so far has only agreement between the government and the companies, there was never a study about the effects,” he said. “Even though it was built, indigenous people did not allow to take part. So when the projects are coming or granted, the development plans affect indigenous people and evicted them.”

But UN member nations have a duty to uphold their obligations, including to minorities, he said. More meetings are expected later this year to bring high-level officials together with minority representatives to discuss the issues, he added.