Indigenous Land Rights and Environmentalism

The woman in the photograph is a Bunong farmer and she grows over ten different species of vegetables, grains and fruits inside a mixed crop plot. Her farm is a strange, windy paradise with tropical fruits and waist high rice blades, shady banana trees and cassava fields. The Bunong people represent one of Cambodia's few indigenous communities and they mostly inhabit the highlands of the country. Traditionally, the Bunong people have had a strong relationship with their surrounding forests; however, things are changing today and their traditions and livelihood are threatened. Marginalized and taken advantage of by the government and the large Khmer companies, a few Bunong people are beginning to fight for their land rights. We have recently met with a Bunong environmental and human rights activist whose traditional farm has been seized by a large and powerful rubber planting company. She states that the reason why the Bunongs have been the I going target of land grabbing by large economic, mono-crop concessions by the tycoons of Cambodia is because a large portion of the community remains illiterate and entirely unaware of their indigenous land rights. As this woman activist continues publicly confronting the large rubber company who stole her land, she has started to receive serious death threats. These threats come from both the company's representatives and the governmental officials. It happens that this large company is in fact owned by the wife of an influential governor. Did you know there has been a rapidly increasing number of deathly victims amongst the environmental activists' movement?

Anna Chahuneau