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‘Indigenous people must exercise rights’

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Save Cambodia’s Wildlife (SCW) celebrates World Day for Cultural Diversity in Mondulkiri province on Tuesday. SCW’s programme manager said it is imperative for indigenous communities to fully exercise their rights and prevent deforestation. Photo supplied

‘Indigenous people must exercise rights’

While indigenous communities in the Kingdom have largely obtained equal rights, they need to step up their advocacy when facing abuses and threats to their traditions, conservation NGO Save Cambodia’s Wildlife (SCW) said.

Marking World Day for Cultural Diversity on Tuesday, SCW said the event honoured the indigenous people’s right to live, benefit from natural resources, and maintain their culture and tradition.

SCW programme manager Chan Vicheth said since indigenous communities rely mainly on natural resources, it is imperative for them to fully exercise their rights and prevent deforestation.

A loss of natural resources due to rampant logging and other factors, he said, would take a heavy toll on their traditions and survival.

“From the legal perspective, we see that the rights of indigenous groups are protected equally in all matters. They benefit from public services such as healthcare, infrastructure and protection from authorities at all levels."

“We see that they are given equal rights,” he said.

Citing economic land concessions granted to private companies, Vicheth urged indigenous communities to speak up when their rights are abused in the form of land grabbing.

He said some companies that had been given economic land concessions intrude on their land and clear forest on which they rely on for their livelihood.

During a forum to mark the event, SCW played a video clip detailing the lives, wellbeing, culture, religion and beliefs of the indigenous people.

SCW said the event gave indigenous communities an opportunity to understand and appreciate the values of cultural diversity and harmonious living with other communities.

In the video clip, the majority of indigenous people called on other ethnic groups to preserve their own culture and traditions and to avoid abandoning them while embracing modern civilisation.

In a separate event, the Ministry of Environment on Tuesday marked the sixth International Biodiversity Day under the theme “Our Biodiversity, Our food, Our Health”.

Chan Somaly, deputy secretary-general of the National Council for Sustainable Development at the Ministry of Environment, said as one of the signatory countries, the Kingdom has an obligation to strengthen collaboration between the government and its development partners including local and international institutions to protect the environment.

“The event aimed to promote and manage biodiversity preservation in Cambodia and provides an excellent opportunity to raise public awareness about the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem,” he said.

Chea Sam Ang, the undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Environment, said: “The theme for this year places emphasis on the value of biodiversity and its significance on human well-being on Earth.

“It is intended to contribute to other sustainable developments as we adapt to climate change, restore the ecosystem, have clean water and aim to eliminate world hunger,” he said.

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