“Where Will We Be Buried If They Took Our Graveyard?’
March 5, 2015, 8:54 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

“Where Will We Be Buried If They Took Our Graveyard?’

When Prime Minister Hun Sen organized a lavish dinner party in Phnom Penh for thousands of student volunteers to mark the January 7 victory over the Khmer Rouge, he praised their efforts and called their land titling mission a success.

However, Cambodian ethic minority people who live in Mondulkiri province in the Northeastern corner of the country more than 500 kilometers away are less enthusiastic about the land titling campaign implemented by the student volunteers. The people here say they have not benefited from this campaign.

“The students did not measure the community forests for us,” says Khang Chnay, who lives Lames Village, Pich Chreatra District’s Bousra Commune.

She says the community forests are very important for the ethnic minority people living in Mondulkiri Province.

“As ethnic minority people, we are born, age and die, and we will be buried,” she says. “But, where will we be buried if they took our graveyard?”

Kroas Sok, a representative of the Banong ethnic minority group in Bousra Commune, says the Ministry for Rural Development and the Interior Ministry have recognized the seven ethnic communities in Bousra Commune through different steps of registration. He says people did not understand when there was a different explanation by the student volunteers who distinguished community land from private land.

“Our people are getting confused, because the student volunteers have registered only the private land and have not registered the community land,” he says. “Then, they asked the ethnic minority people who have had their land registered promise to accept their measurement.”

However, Kroas Sok says about 70 percent of the ethnic minority people want to live collectively as communities according to their tradition and custom, while the rest of the people wanted private land with proper titles that they can deposit at the banks to borrow money.

“They said if we did not register, we risked losing all of our land altogether,” he says.

Many Economic Land Concession companies have taken the ethnic minority people’s land. These companies include Sofin-KCD, Dalak-Mundulkiri and KPhis.

Representatives of the people say the student volunteers have not measured and registered their land which has been taken over by the companies.

Seung Kao, Deputy Chief of Bousra commune, says the companies would violate the terms of the Economic Land Concession with the government by encroaching upon people’s land.

“I know that the Royal Government is not blind and allows the company to do development in vain,” he says.

He says the companies have continued to clear land still in dispute with the ethnic minority people regardless of their protests.

“We were almost engaged in a physical scuffle with them,” Seung Kao adds.



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