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What Kind of Education, in the Absence of Consultation and Participation?

By: Norbert Klein Posted: December-08-2010 in
Norbert Klein

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 694

The Mirror has always considered it to be an important challenge to look at things which belong together – but for some reason they are not mutually related. There is some lack of communication, or straightforward mis-communication – and by pointing to such unrelated elements which should relate to each other, maybe the necessary mutual communication can be initiated. And this is a challenge not only for the writer, but also for the readers.

On Tuesday, it was disclosed that a report, released by the government and the UN Development Program, pointed out the growing disparities between some sections of the country far away from the centers of economic action, and the conditions in the major cities – pointing especially to the provinces of Mondolkiri, Ratanakiri, and Stung Treng, where a large section of the population belongs to non-Khmer ethnic minorities. A UN Development Program staff warned even about “a poverty gap developing between these provinces and the rest of the country.”

The CPP member of the National Assembly Mr. Cheam Yeap is then quoted to have said “that the increasing disparity in health and income were in large part due to the lack of education. “Only education can improve livelihoods and narrow the gap between urban and rural.” And he continued to say that the government’s effort to improve education and infrastructure was difficult to achieve because the hill tribes did not pay enough attention to education. “The indigenous people seldom understand education enough to send their children to school.” But “it was also hard to find qualified teaching staff to teach in the remote provinces” – where the people speak a variety of different languages.

But on the same day the following statement was published in The Cambodia Daily. It does not speak much about eduction as the key to economic growth, but it points rather to the difficulties to get their right recognized and their land not easily and without consultation assigned by the government and handed over to some private companies.

We share the full text of the Closing Statement of this forum, which had met at the end of November:

The Right of Indigenous Peoples to Consultation and Participation in the Development Process

Closing statement of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum

25-26 November 2010

Today marks an extraordinary occasion as Cambodian indigenous people have demonstrated the capacity to organize this Indigenous Peoples’ Forum with participants from 20 different ethnic groups (Bunong, Jarai, Kachok, Kavet, Khaonh, Kraol, Kreung, Kuoy, Lun, Mil, P’ong, Por, Praov, Rode, S’Och, Stieng, Suoy, Thmoun, Tumpuon, and other groups) from 15 provinces.

To date, our peoples have established and managed two organizations, named the Highlanders Association, and the Organization to Promote Kuoy Culture, a network named Indigenous Rights Active Members, and an association named the Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association.

Through this two-day forum we have identified challenges and problems that our indigenous peoples continue to face. On behalf of all the Cambodian indigenous people in our communities, we would like to call attention to the following issues:

1. Lack of implementation of the law in indigenous areas by the Royal Government:

  • Compensation to indigenous people who are affected by companies’ development projects is insufficient and is not made in a timely or transparent manner.
  • There are delays in registration of community forests, identification of indigenous people, registration of indigenous communities as legal entities, and registration of indigenous communities’ collective land;
  • Enforcement of the Forestry Law and Land Law is inadequate and dissemination of the laws has not been sufficient;
  • The government does not regularly and closely monitor the activities of investment companies that harm indigenous peoples;
  • Promises to resolve issues faced by indigenous communities are not realized and little attention is paid to resolution of land disputes within indigenous communities.

2. Problems faced by indigenous communities face in consultations:

  • In general, indigenous communities are not consulted, informed or involved in designing development programs, especially in the granting of land concessions and licenses for mining exploration;
  • Some local authorities do not consult with communities before submitting commune development plans or other plans for development projects to the Royal Government;
  • Local authorities do not give indigenous women full rights to participate in consultations and do not encourage them to participate;
  • Local authorities often intimidate indigenous people when they try to express their opinions or do not pay attention to us;
  • In some areas, there are cases of human rights violations and intimidation of indigenous people during consultations; sometimes armed forces have even intervened;
  • There is a lack of full involvement of and consultation with indigenous peoples when establishing policies and laws that relate to indigenous peoples’ development;
  • The processes of formal registration, such as registration of community forests, collective land title, and legal entity status, as well as identification of indigenous people are complicated, difficult to follow, and usually are not appropriate for the indigenous context;
  • The process of consultation by investment companies is always difficult and there is no support from the government to enable a participatory consultation with both men and women.

In response to these issues, we make the following requests for full involvement and consultation:

  • Information be shared, thorough consultation should be carried out with indigenous people, and indigenous peoples’ consent should be sought before land concessions are granted in indigenous areas;
  • Indigenous peoples must be consulted with regard to designing national policies that affect us;
  • There must be no intimidation of any community representatives or community members for expressing their opinions during the consultation process – especially consultation on economic land concessions and mining exploration;
  • There should be consultations on the issue of compensation to those affected by investment companies, with equal and transparent participation of community members, developers and the government;
  • The government should reduce the size of or cease to grant economic land concessions until collective land titling has been carried out and all issues regarding the granting of land concessions have been resolved for indigenous peoples;
  • The government should fully support communities with regards to the media and support broad public coverage of issues facing indigenous communities.

As indigenous people who face challenges and whose communities are being affected by development projects, we would like to publicly request that the Royal Government of Cambodia take into consideration our above-mentioned issues and implement our requests to bring about effective mechanisms to ensure full rights and sustainable livelihoods for indigenous peoples like those being enjoyed by the rest of the population.

Thank you.

Norbert KLEIN

This article was first published by The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 694 – Tuesday, 7.12.2010
Have a look at the last editorial - you can access it directly from the main page of The Mirror.

Norbert Klein is the Editor of The Mirror – The Mirror is a daily comprehensive summary and translation of the major Khmer language press - More about The Mirror


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