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Women Minorities Call Land Development a Major Threat

An ethnic minority Cambodian boy, left, stands next to his mother at a village, file photo.
A group of 20 women from various indigenous groups from across the country met in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, calling economic land concessions the top threat to their way of life.

“Land clearing by concession companies makes indigenous women unable to do their routine work, such as searching the forest for products and medicine and catching fish,” said Nuon Mon, a Kuoy ethnic minority from Preah Vihear province. “They remove the forests and fill the lakes, so we are suffering from poverty and unable to send our children to school.”

At Wednesday’s conference, organized by the Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association and the Indigenous People’s Human Rights Defenders and Advocates, participants said discrimination, marginalization and exploitation are all issues they deal with. They also face abuse at the hands of authorities and tensions from new settlers in their areas, which are far from health and education services.

“But the priority is women’s issues, to be raised for discussion,” said Ngach Samin, a rights advocate for the indigenous. “They are one of the most vulnerable groups in ethnic communities.”

Recommendations from the conference will be sent to government ministries, Ngach Samin said.

Khhim Chamreoun, secretary of state at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said the government’s polices do not discriminate against ethnic minorities.

“We always pay attention to ethnic women, including in professional training and women’s empowerment,” she said.