OFFICIALS from the Interior and Justice ministries have distributed the first set of handbooks outlining conflict-resolution mechanisms commonly employed by indigenous groups, as part of an effort to assess how these mechanisms can fit in with the formal judicial system.
Yin Sopheap, a regional legal specialist for the UN Development Programme who was involved in researching and drafting the handbooks, said one purpose of the project was to identify instances – such as cases of rape and murder – in which traditional mechanisms such as compensation payments and traditional ceremonies should be abandoned in favour of the courts.
“Any customs that are contrary to the existing laws of the government should not be practiced by the indigenous groups,” he said. “Any that is acceptable, you can keep.”
The handbooks draw from information gathered in four villages in Ratanakkiri province and two in neighbouring Mondulkiri dealing with the roles of so-called “traditional authorities” in conflict-resolution processes and the rules that govern those processes. More broadly, the handbooks also cover the cultural norms and traditions of indigenous groups.
“The information is particularly important to legal practitioners working with indigenous communities and to lawmakers who draft laws and government policies so that they can take these different practices into consideration,” said a UNDP statement marking a launch event held on Friday.
In addition to the two ministries, the NGO Legal Aid of Cambodia was involved in the handbook production process, which was supported by UNDP and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation.