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History of World’s Indigenous Peoples Celebrating Day  

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History of World’s Indigenous Peoples Celebrating Day  

  1. Introduction

According to the United Nations, there are about 476 million indigenous people which is about 6.2% of the world population living in around 90 countries. According to the census statistics in 2013, the population of indigenous people in Cambodia is 183,831 which is about 2.5% of the total population. There are about 24 ethnic/tribal groups living in 15 provinces such as Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri, Stung Treng, Kratie, Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear, Pursat, Battambang, Uddar Meanchey, Banteay Meanchey, Thbongkmum, Koh Kong, Kompong Speu, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville. The indigenous people have a very close connection and strong beliefs in the spirits of the soil, water, rivers, mountains, forests, etc. The way of living of each indigenous group is very similar. For instance, they all do shifting cultivation, raising livestock, hunting, and fishing. They also rely on natural resources such as wild vegetables, honey, herbal medicines, and wild rubbers which can be used in their household or sold at the market.

On 23 December 1994, the United Nations General Assembly decided, in its resolution 49/214, that the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People shall be observed on 9 August every year. This resolution is in line with the International Decade on the World’s Indigenous Peoples and is designated today as a reminder of the first meeting, in 1982, of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Peoples in Geneva, Switzerland. After the conclusion of the first international decade on the World’s Indigenous People (1995-2004), the General Assembly declared Resolution 174 dated 20 December 2004 to have the Second International Decade on the World’s Indigenous Peoples (2005 -2015), which aims to further strengthen international cooperation for solving problems facing indigenous peoples in areas such as culture, education, health, human rights, environment, and social and economic development.

After 25 years of struggle and sacrifice, the 63rd General Assembly of the United Nations on 13 September 2007 voted in favor of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 143 countries, including Cambodia, voted in favor. Four other countries voted against, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

In Cambodia, the government has enacted laws, sub-decrees, policies and ratified a number of international laws and documents recognizing and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, including:

  • Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia 1993 (Article 31)
  • Land Law 2001 (Articles 23 to 28)
  • Forestry Act 2002
  • Sub-Decree No. 83 on Procedures for Land Registration of Indigenous Communities June 09, 2009
  • Policy on Registration and Land Use Rights of Indigenous Communities in the Kingdom of Cambodia (April 24, 2009)
  • National Policy on Indigenous Peoples Development (April 24, 2009)
  • ILO-Convention 111
  • United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) (UNDRIP)
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  1. History of International Day of Indigenous Peoples in Cambodia

Cambodia celebrated the first international day of indigenous people in 2005 in Phnom Penh, and it was celebrated from then till now for 10 years. On August 3, 2006, the Cambodian government, through the Office of the Council of Ministers, issued Notification No. 1205, dated by Samdech Akka Sena Moha Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia on July 31, 2006, to authorize the organization of the 12th International Day of Indigenous Peoples at the international level and the 2nd in Cambodia.

Since then, the international day of indigenous peoples has been celebrated every year in the provinces and cities of Cambodia, especially the provinces that have an indigenous population as described below:

1st and 2nd in Phnom Penh, 3rd in Ratanakkiri, 4th in Pursat, 5th in Mondulkiri, 6th in Siem Reap, 7th in Stung Treng, 8th in Kampong Cham, 9th in Kampong Cham 10th Sihanoukville in Kratie, 11th in Koh Kong, 12th in Kampong Speu, 13th in Kampong Thom, 14th in Preah Vihear, 15th in Ratanakkiri and 16th in Oddar Meanchey.

Noted that after the 8th celebration in 2013, the local communities had taken ownership to organize this the international day of indigenous peoples for the first time in 3 different villages/communes across Cambodia which has about 400 participants. Since then, the number of participants and celebrating places has increased rapidly. By 2019, the celebration of the international day of indigenous people has taken place in about 45 communities with 6000 participants.

2021 is the 27th international day of indigenous People in the world, and the 17th in Cambodia under the theme, “Leaving no one behind: Indigenous Peoples and the call for a new social contract”

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Cambodia, and to contribute to the government in preventing the spread of this disease, the indigenous peoples of Cambodia are virtually celebrating this day via Zoom.

As mentioned above, we would like to invite His Majesty, Excellencies, Lok Chumteav, Neak Oknha, Ladies and Gentlemen, especially the government representatives of Cambodia, the representatives/ambassadors, NGOs and the private sector in Cambodia to join us in celebrating the International Day of Indigenous Peoples on August 9, 2021, from 8 am to 5 pm in order to raise awareness of cultural traditions and recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights in Cambodia.

Translated from the Khmer version by Soy Pisey