The ministries of Planning and Rural Development and the Cambodia Indigenous Peoples Alliance (CIPA) on November 4 jointly organised an online conference to announce their joint report on the demographic and socio-economic realities of the indigenous peoples in the country.
The report offers detailed information on the living conditions and specific challenges faced by indigenous Cambodians.
Minister of Planning Chhay Thorn said at the meeting that the purpose of the report was to use it as a basis for directing indigenous peoples’ development plans and focuses for research.
He said this was a great achievement that came from the excellent cooperative efforts between Cambodia’s state institutions, development partners and indigenous communities.
Thorn said the status of indigenous peoples in Cambodia is determined by their use of indigenous languages. There are 22 indigenous tribes in Cambodia with a total population of 183,831 people in 2013, or 1.25 per cent of Cambodia’s total population of around 16 million.
According to Thorn, only six of the 22 tribes have more than 10,000 members in them: Tampuan, Bunong, Kouy, Jaray and Prov. They account for 88 per cent of the indigenous population on their own.
“Currently, indigenous peoples live in the capital and across all provinces, but the vast majority of them actually live in just six provinces: Ratanakkiri, Mondulkiri, Kratie, Stung Treng, Kampong Thom and Preah Vihear, which together had 92.4 per cent of all indigenous peoples living there in 2013,” he said.
Chea Chantum, secretary-general of the planning ministry’s General Secretariat for Population and Development, detailed some of the contents of the report.
“The report on the demographic and socio-economic status of indigenous peoples in Cambodia has five chapters – Chapter 1: Introduction, Chapter 2: Demographic Status, Chapter 3: Socio-Economic Situation; Chapter 4: Housing, Land and Collective Ownership; and Chapter 5: Conclusion,” he said.
According to Chantum, population and development issues are intertwined and supportive of each other.
Problems of demographic change and population dynamics have been persistent, such as the reproductive health challenges of adolescents and girls, the aging population, the relentless rise of migrants, and rapid urbanisation, with a labour-intensive but unskilled or low-skilled workforce and uncertain environment.
“These problems, if we don’t intervene timely or on target, will be a serious burden on the government and ultimately cause a crisis for society. But if we intervene properly and in time, it will turn out to be a great opportunity to boost the country’s economic growth and development and especially to take advantage of the demographic dividends that Cambodia is experiencing,” he said.
Pheap Sochea, acting executive director of Cambodia Indigenous People, also said this report is the only national data compiled in Cambodian history for supporting the development of indigenous peoples in Cambodia as of 2021.
“The report is based on scientific data and in line with our spirit, aspirations and needs, challenges in development and conservation and it accurately portrays the social, economic and cultural conditions indigenous people live under,” he said.
According to Sochea, the use of this national report will help promote national planning, policy formulation and the development of conservation projects to promote the economic, social and cultural development of indigenous peoples, which will be focused primarily on poverty reduction measures.