Germany should advocate for the rights of indigenous peoples and minority groups

Elections in Cambodia (July 28, 2013):

According to the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), the German Federal Government should review its development cooperation with Cambodia after the parliamentary elections in the south-east Asian Nation. "As one of the largest donors, Germany must demand that the new legitimate government of Cambodia will respect the rights of the indigenous communities and minority groups," said the STP's Cambodia-expert, Judith Kunze, in Berlin on Thursday. "At the same time, the German land sector funds must finally become subject to stricter monitoring." In the last few years, the rush of national and international companies on Cambodia's resources caused serious conflicts over land rights – often to the disadvantage of small farmers and especially the indigenous peoples. They often lose their livelihood after being displaced or forcibly relocated. More than 20 percent of the fertile land already belong to private investors.

Recently, a land registration program (Directive 01) initiated by Prime Minister Hun Sen – with help from students and financed by party colleagues – had caused dissent, because the indigenous communities had illegally been put under pressure to make them accept private land titles. However, the laws provide for collective land rights that take the preservation of their life and culture into account. In Ratanakiri province alone, more than 1,500 families had been anxious enough to accepted private land titles.

The STP demands, that – in case Hun Sen should be re-elected – the directive 01 should only be continued within an institutional framework, based on transparent regulations. The affected people and their supporters must be informed about the consequences and must be able to file official complaints.

According to the census of 2008, there are at least 179,000 native inhabitants, making up approximately 1.3 percent of the 14.5 million Cambodian citizens. About four million hectares of land are owned collectively by the indigenous communities in 15 of the 24 provinces. Two thirds of the native inhabitants live in the north-eastern provinces of Ratanakiri and Modulkiri where they represent the majority.

"The minority group of the Khmer Krom urgently needs international advocates," said Kunze. "200,000 of the refugees from southern Vietnam who are of Khmer-origin are being denied identity documents, although they are entitled to a Cambodian citizenship."