A team from the Ministry of Environment and Koh Kong provincial environment department are studying the Cambodia Sustainable Landscape and Ecotourism Project (CSLEP) in the Central Cardamom Mountains National Park in Thma Bang district to gather information to determine the parameters necessary to designate a cultural and national heritage area for the conservation of the Chong indigenous people’s culture.
Department director Hun Marady said on May 1 that the team was collecting data on the location of the Chong indigenous people’s villages and settlements in the national park and finding out about their shrines and other important places that should officially belong to their community.
“Now we are in the process of doing research and the results have not been released yet,” he said.
Sopha Sokun Narung, the national focal point manager in charge of indigenous peoples for CSLEP, said the study aimed to consult and collect data to determine and map conservation areas of cultural heritage and nature for the community.
He said this was being done to promote the participation of the Chong in the process of organising and implementing the project’s activities, especially in seeking opportunities for increasing income from tourist services in the region.
“This study was conducted in response to a need for participation by the Chong in the preservation of their cultural traditions and customs. Their natural cultural heritage conservation areas will include spiritually significant places, forest land, shrines, archaeological sites and burial areas,” he said.
He added that the CSLEP working group in charge of social safety and indigenous peoples, in collaboration with Department of Heritage Areas under the ministry’s General Department of Local Community, held a consultation meeting on April 25-27 to collect data and determine what locations need to be included in order to produce a map of the Chong’s natural and cultural heritage conservation areas.
The ministry said the studies aimed to guarantee social safety for the indigenous people, especially to avoid any negative impacts on the Chong community associated with drawing boundaries and dividing management areas and other CSLEP planning activities.
The meeting was attended by 40 people from relevant departments under the ministry and the provincial environment Department as well as the national park rangers and the Thma Donpov commune council, along with Chong representatives from Prek Svay and Koh villages in the commune.
As a preliminary finding, the meeting determined there were three natural cultural heritage conservation areas in Thma Donpov commune – Prey Areak Anlong Samram, Prey Areak Koh Neakta and Prey Areak Neakta Preah Chao – spanning 303ha, in addition to two burial sites covering 4ha.
According to the ministry, in Cambodia there are 24 ethnic groups of indigenous peoples with their own respective cultures, customs, traditions, beliefs and languages. Most of them live in rural areas and engage in rice farming, raising animals, fishing and harvesting forest products for a living.