The first-ever Cambodia Indigenous Women’s National Human Rights Training on Documentation and Advocacy was held in Phnom Penh on December 3-6, 2013 participated in by 29 indigenous women and three indigenous men leaders together with advocates from national and regional indigenous peoples organizations, and national NGOs. The participants were sent by Bunong, Suy, Kui, Tampoun, Stieng, Jarai, Chorng, Prov and Por peoples from Kampong Speu, Kampong Thom, Koh Kong, Kratie, Mondulkiri, Preah Vihear, Pursat, Ratanakiri, Steung Treng provinces. The participants are members of the indigenous peoples organizations namely, the Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association (CIYA), Highlanders Association, Indigenous Rights Active Members, and the Organization to Promote Kui Culture.
The training was organized by CIYA and the Indigenous Community Support Organisation with support from the UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific through the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact. It aimed to build and enhance the capacity of indigenous women human rights defenders to document and address human rights violations. The participants came from communities affected by land grabbing through economic land concessions (ELCs), dams and mines, and those facing problems regarding the various land registration/titling directives.
ELCs are clearing forests, including spirit forests and sacred sites, farms, and homes; mines, dam constructions and planned dams are forcibly evicting and threatening indigenous communities’ right to land, territories and resources, their right to life. The participants face many problems related to Directive 01BB which allows indigenous communities to choose between individual land titling versus collective land titling. Purportedly meant to solve the backlog in the tedious collective registration process, this directive is actually creating confusion and conflict in the community, exacerbating the already vulnerable situation of women. If a community chooses individual land titling, all untitled lands will become state property, thus depriving indigenous women and their communities, the use of communal resources like forests which are crucial to women’s livelihood.
To address some of these issues, the indigenous women issued their demands to the Royal Government of Cambodia on the occasion of the commemoration of 2013 Human Rights Day as follows:
1. STOP granting economic or social land concessions on indigenous territories without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the affected communities. Information on all such concessions, dams, infrastructure development, mines, research and other activities undertaken in our territories must be provided to us within a sufficient period of time for us to study, assess and decide through our own decision-making processes, and in a language which we can understand. This will allow us to say NO to such developments.
2. SUSPEND the implementation of Directive 01BB. Instead FAST-TRACK the implementation of the Sub-decree on communal land titling by providing resources for the information, education and communication on the Sub-decree to all indigenous communities and for meeting the requirements of the communal land registration; allow for experts, including indigenous experts and human rights organisations, to assist indigenous communities to understand the Sub-decree, meet the requirements, and go through the process.
3. STOP IMMEDIATELY the activities of Rui Feng Co. Ltd. and Lan Feng Co. Ltd. in Pramer Commune in Preah Vihear Province which is continuing with impunity destroying our farms, forests, including spirit forests and sacred sites, despite our continuing protests made known to authorities at the local to the national levels. Up to now, no action has been made to finally resolve our concerns except for the issuance of promises while allowing the corporations to continue to destroy our lands and livelihoods. Related to this is the delay in the process of our collective land registration while the ELCs have been easily granted to the corporations.
4. INVESTIGATE immediately the allegations that SOCFIN is threatening villagers in Bousra Commune, Pichreada District, Mondulkiri Province as they go about their traditional livelihood activities and cheating villagers through violations of the provisions of the contract on share-cropping, denying indigenous women and their families to meet their subsistence needs.
5. REVOKE the Social Land Concession in Bunong territory in Bousra Commune, Pichreada District, Mondulkiri Province where provincial authorities have granted such concession to non-indigenous people who have destroyed conservation, spirit forests and graveyards, and which has jeopardized the collective land registration process of the affected Bunong communities.