Search form

Login - Register | FOLLOW US ON

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sacred site threatened by construction in Mondulkiri

An excavator clears land last week in Mondulkiri province to make way for a planned mine and oil educational centre. Adhoc
An excavator clears land last week in Mondulkiri province to make way for a planned mine and oil educational centre. Adhoc

Sacred site threatened by construction in Mondulkiri

Villagers in Mondulkiri province are protesting the construction of a Ministry of Mines vocational training centre on a piece of land they say is sacred with cultural significance to people across the province.

About 50 villagers from four districts surrounding the Dos Kramom mountain near Sen Monorom town on Friday stopped heavy machinery from clearing the land to make way for the centre, which will offer mining industry training.

Kreung Tola, a community representative, said villagers from ethnic minorities, including the Phnong, had built four shrines over 10 hectares on the mountain for their ancestral spirits. The area was also a popular tourist site, Tola added.

“The villagers disagree with the construction of the building because it will destroy our ethnic identity and ancestral spirits,” he said.

He said the villagers had asked the local authorities to find a different location for the training centre, adding that similar protests five years ago had thwarted construction of a bottled water factory at the same location.

Following the protest, local authorities organised a meeting with villagers, but a solution could not be reached, said Sun Darith, provincial director for the Department of Mines and Energy.

Darith said the land was state property and had been given to the department by the provincial government, adding that the centre was being built with a Chinese loan.

He said the project, which includes a training centre, laboratory and dormitories, was originally slated for Ratanakkiri province and was shifted to Mondulkiri to improve the human resource capacity of the locals.

“[The locals] do not allow us, but let karaoke bars and private ownership at the mountain,” he said. “This will be the biggest university in the province.”

Ministry of Mines and Energy spokesman Meng Saktheara said the province was expected to have a boom in large-scale mining, and the centre would help funnel trained professionals to the sector.

Saktheara said the project was still in the planning stage and that there was no budgetary allocation for the project yet, with the provincial department only demarcating the land with poles and fencing.

“The land is very close to the mountain that is considered sacred by the locals,” Saktheara said. “The problem is that locals were concerned that any construction near the mountain will affect the spirituality of the area.”

He said that local authorities would try to find an amicable solution, but were still adamant they would consider moving the centre’s location.

“It’s not a problem, if necessary we will relocate. But we were building it there to benefit the locals,” he added.



Please, login or register to post a comment
John Lowrie's picture

The essence of the difference between officials and local people is the "we know best" attitude - best as far as they are concerned for the country (and their associated vested interests) and "we know what is best for you" based on the misconception that indigenous people lack the ability to make sensible decisions. (See my blog Well times are changing and have changed. We now have some very well-educated and qualified indigenous graduates who do understand issues and are able to assimilate modern development ideas with respected inherited knowledge of elders. The naivety of the past is gone. This does not apply just to public service officials but also NGO staff, almost all Khmer incomers, who have been just as guilty of talking down when it comes to the best interests of indigenous people, when really they too have been putting their own agenda first.

Latest Video

Turkish Embassy calls for closure of Zaman schools

With an attempted coup against the government of President Recep Erdogan quashed only days ago and more than 7,000 alleged conspirators now under arrest, the Turkish ambassador to Cambodia yesterday pressed the govern

CNRP lawmakers beaten

Two opposition lawmakers, Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Sakphea were beaten unconscious during protests in Phnom Penh, as over a thousand protesters descended upon the National Assembly.

Student authors discuss "The Cambodian Economy"

Student authors discuss "The Cambodian Economy"

Students at Phnom Penh's Liger Learning Center have written and published a new book, "The Cambodian Economy".