* This map is fully embedded from ODC’s website.
Mining is one of the major industries in Cambodia, especially in the areas where indigenous peoples live. However, mining activities have often been associated with negative impacts on the environment, human rights, and cultural heritage of indigenous peoples. Here are some of the main issues and challenges related to mining in indigenous peoples’ areas in Cambodia:
- Lack of legal protection and recognition: The 2001 Land Law recognizes the rights of indigenous peoples to collective land titles (CLTs), which grant them ownership and management of their communal lands. However, the process of obtaining a CLT is very slow and complicated, requiring the involvement and coordination of multiple government agencies and stakeholders. Since 2009, only 33 out of around 455 indigenous communities have been granted CLTs, covering about 170,000 hectares of land1. Many communities are still waiting for their applications to be approved or processed. Moreover, the CLTs often do not cover the full extent of the indigenous peoples’ customary lands, which include sacred sites, burial grounds, forests, rivers, and other natural resources that are essential for their spiritual and material well-being1. The CLTs are also subject to limitations and conditions imposed by the government, such as restrictions on land use, transfer, and inheritance1. Furthermore, the CLTs do not guarantee the protection of the indigenous peoples’ rights from external threats, such as land grabbing, illegal logging, environmental degradation, and human rights violations1.
- Lack of consultation and consent: In Cambodia, the Land Law provides little or no protection to indigenous peoples with respect to mining activities on their lands. The law does not require the government to consult with or obtain the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous peoples before granting mining concessions or licenses to private companies or state entities2. The law also does not provide any mechanism for indigenous peoples to participate in or benefit from mining operations or revenues2. As a result, many indigenous communities have been excluded from or marginalized in decision-making processes regarding mining activities on their lands. They have also been denied access to information about the potential impacts and risks of mining projects on their environment, health, livelihoods, and culture2.
- Lack of social and environmental safeguards: Mining activities in Cambodia have often been carried out without proper social and environmental impact assessments (SEIAs) or mitigation measures. Many mining projects have caused serious damage to the environment, such as deforestation, soil erosion, water pollution, biodiversity loss, and greenhouse gas emissions2. These environmental impacts have in turn affected the health and well-being of indigenous peoples who depend on their natural resources for their survival. Mining activities have also disrupted the social and cultural fabric of indigenous communities, such as their traditional governance systems, customary laws, spiritual beliefs, and collective identity2. Many indigenous peoples have faced displacement, resettlement, loss of land and livelihoods, violence, intimidation, harassment, and discrimination as a result of mining activities on their lands2.
- Lack of accountability and redress: Indigenous peoples in Cambodia have faced many challenges in seeking justice and remedy for the violations of their rights caused by mining activities. The legal system in Cambodia is weak and corrupt, making it difficult for indigenous peoples to access judicial or administrative remedies. The government has often failed to enforce its own laws and regulations regarding mining activities or to hold accountable those who violate them. The mining companies have often ignored or denied their responsibility to respect human rights and environmental standards or to provide adequate compensation or rehabilitation to affected communities. Indigenous peoples have also faced reprisals and threats when they try to defend their rights or protest against mining activities on their lands3.
Therefore, the situation of mining in indigenous peoples’ areas in Cambodia is not satisfactory or sustainable. There is a need for more political will and commitment from the government to respect and uphold the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands and cultures. There is also a need for more support and participation from civil society organizations, development partners, media, and the public to raise awareness and advocate for the rights of indigenous peoples. Finally, there is a need for more dialogue and cooperation among all stakeholders to find solutions that are fair, inclusive, and sustainable for the benefit of all.