Despite Law, Minority Rights Receive Very Few Protections

The government does little to protect the rights and livelihoods of the country’s many ethnic minorities who are under constant threat from rapid development, representatives of indigenous groups said yesterday. “We have polices laws and guidelines to protect indigenous people, but we see that it doesn’t work,” said Savy Sochea, program coordinator for the Indigenous Community Support Organization. “Having this on paper is a good [intention], but implementation and enforcement is very weak,” he said a meeting at NGO Forum offices in Phnom Penh where ethnic minority representatives gathered to finalize a new report on the state of the country’s ethnic minorities. Besides mining operations and deforestation, the construction of hydropower dams, such as the Lower Sesan 2, will negatively impact minorities whose livelihoods depend on the rivers in the northeast of the country. “In the case of the Lower Sesan 2 in Stung Treng province, the construction [was approved] without consulting the community and people were forced to accept compensation,” Mr. Sochea said. ..