The Phnong indigenous community in the Cambodian village of Gati has long lived in insecurity. As an ethnic minority, Phnong community members have few rights, and live in fear of being pushed off their land and losing their traditional way of life. They are concerned over land conflicts in the area and the arrival of a mining company that recently came and dug holes around the community, laying claim over land that has traditionally been used by resin tappers. More than ever, the need for legal recognition feels urgent for the community.
“When we get a legal identity certificate, we can be the legal owners of our land and we will no longer be afraid of losing it,” said Mr. Khum Peak, the chairperson of the Phnong Indigenous Community in Gati village.
Development and Peace partner, Development and Partnership in Action (DPA), is working with Phnong families in the village of Gati to help them apply for legal identity certificates, which will then facilitate the process of registering for communal land titling certificates. “When villagers here have legal identity certificates, they are able to prove their ownership in the case of land encroachment and land conflict with mining companies,” said Mr. Keo Krak, village chief of Gati.
It will also minimize existing problems, such as large-scale illegal land trading, village boundary conflicts and the migration of people from outside areas. In addition, it is reassurance that the Phnong community will have a better chance at preserving its rich cultural heritage as families can continue to pass down their customs and traditions to their children.
“With a legal identity certificate, I can legally transfer my land to my children,” said Mr. Khum Peak, who has 2.5 hectares of land for farming and rice cultivation. With this certificate, he knows that his children will not have to live with the same injustices that he did.