UN official calls on Cambodia to cancel concession on indigenous land

UN official calls on Cambodia to cancel concession on indigenous land

A United Nations human rights official has called on the Cambodian Government to cancel a land concession to a Chinese-backed company, saying it disregards the interests of indigenous people living there and violates both the law and human rights.

“The Government and the company have disregarded the well-being, culture and livelihoods of the Phnong indigenous people who make up more than half the population of the province, and many breaches of the law and of human rights have been committed,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia, Peter Leuprecht, said in a statement yesterday.

He asked Government to cancel the agreement of last August to provide an initial 10,000 hectares of state land to Wuzhishan L.S. Group for a pine tree plantation in Mondulkiri province, with a promise of a further 189,999 hectares.

“As with other economic land concessions, no environmental or social impact assessments were carried out, and local populations and authorities were neither informed nor consulted,” he said.

The concession encompasses hilly grasslands and dense forest in the valleys and along the waterways of southern Mondulkiri. In September, the company started spraying the hills with large amounts of the herbicide glyphosate, later burning sprayed areas. The hills are used by the Phnong to graze their cattle.

Ancestral burial areas and spirit forests have also been desecrated and the company has taken farm lands and rice fields, Mr. Leuprecht said. The concession should not have been approved as the Land Law establishes the right of indigenous people to collective title, he added.