Two representatives of Mondulkiri’s Phnong ethnic minority arrived in Phnom Penh yesterday to ask the government to fire the provincial director of rural development after he allegedly prohibited them from celebrating International Indigenous People’s Day.
Brandishing a petition with 792 signatures, Prb Cbib and Kvang Thum arrived at the National Assembly to complain that Yung Sarom, Mondulkiri’s director of rural development, had rejected their request to hold their celebration in August.
“[Sarom] does not think minority groups have value and that’s why he is not allowing us to celebrate,” Cbib said. “We’ve been celebrating this day for six years, but this year he denied our request for a permit without providing an explanation.”
Thum, meanwhile, said that the decision to prohibit the celebration would negatively impact Cambodia’s minorities. “Not only are my rights affected, but those of all minority groups throughout the country are affected,” Thum said.
“We all have the right to celebrate our traditions in order to maintain them.” Sarom, however, said that the group’s allegations are false.
“I don’t know why they said that I prohibited it. I am currently preparing a budget for the day’s event,” Sarom said, adding that the groups are damaging his reputation.
“They could come and discuss this with me first instead of going to Phnom Penh to complain about me,” he added.
Sam El, an official in Mondulkiri’s Keo Seima district, said occasionally there are disagreements over where to celebrate the event, but it’s important that the day is respected in order to preserve minorities’ traditions.