In the first of a new series on the country’s smallest and most endangered minorities, Charlotte Pert photographed the Chorng.
The Chorng ethnic minority is one of the groups that fall under the umbrella identity of the Khmer Daeum — literally “original Khmers”. There are records of their presence in Cambodia as far back as the 13th century. According to folklore, the people fled from troubled neighbouring lowlands to trade in forest resources. Today, some 300 families inhabit three communes of Thmor Baing district in Koh Kong province, near the Areng Valley. In recent weeks, Chorng representatives have been part of a campaign to halt the construction of a large-scale hydropower dam, the reservoir of which is expected to affect their ancestral homelands. Their daily lives are dependent on the forest, where they gather natural resources like rattan, wood, fruit and vegetables, and where they believe spirits reside. When in the forest, villagers speak the Chorng dialect, which dates back to ancient times, as they believe speaking Khmer would anger the spirits.