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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Indigenous land exploited

Indigenous land exploited

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The Royal Government of Cambodia and private land developers were exploiting indigenous communities in Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri provinces by signing concession deals for the communities’ land without prior consultation, advocates said yesterday.

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“We urge the government as well as the private sector to respect [indigenous peoples’] rights to their land . . .  and their rights to independence and cultural integrity,” Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum, said.

“All these projects must be planned with care, transparency and accountability.”

The NGO Forum of Cambodia launched its publication on “Free, Prior and Informed Consent in Development” pointing the finger at the government and companies who were making land deals behind closed doors that affected indigenous peoples’ land.

One case study in Ratanakkiri’s Malik commune, in Andong Meas district, used in the publication describes how the Heng Brother Company began bulldozing its economic concession of 20 hectares of forest.

Villagers, who were unaware a concession had been granted, were bribed with $100 payments to assist in clearing their own forest land, or have the land cleared by bulldozers and receive no payment at all.

Department of Mines director Sim Sisokhaly told the Post the law was very clear that companies must have the written agreement of landowners affected by a concession.

“The government has an accurate law, and companies that have economic land concessions must follow this policy,” Sim Sisokhaly said.

Sek Sophoan, national co-ordinator for the International Labour Office, said yesterday  the obligations of the Cambodian government and private companies to respect indigenous peoples’ rights were very clear.

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