The following are my on-location field notes from December 2015. I travelled with a Krung guide into the forest, he introduced me to the highlanders and translated all interviews. 66% of the people in the furthest northeast of Cambodia, called Ratanakiri, are indigenous people: the main tribes are Brao (Krung), Jarai, Tampun. The “forest people”, also called “highlanders”, “tribal people”, or “minorities” are actually the majority of Ratanakiri, a very rich province. The Khmer Rouge wanted the highlanders to assimilate, they relocated many of them during their rampage years. The Khmer Rouge wanted the tribes to leave their backward system and begin regular field agriculture, to become rice farmers and contribute to society. The indigenous people were also forced to learn and speak Khmer. In the 80ies the local/tribal people moved to the roads and the “city people” moved to the highlands – to do logging, built plantations and do gold and precious stone mining. The land was given away as concessions to people and companies – for exploitation. The ethnic minorities were …
The highlander tribes in the northeast of Cambodia have lost their battle – even though there are Highlander Associations and diverse NGOs trying to do their best to protect them from land-grabbing.
My way to the gem stone miners of Cambodia brings me past honey sellers. The indigenous people from the Tampuan tribe come to the roads to sell their produce. Honey is a treasure and these people are a treasure as well, but no one seems to care about their needs, property or knowledge. I am travelling in the northeast Ratanakiri province, an area where the so called “ethnic minorities” are actually the majority and where the living conditions are the poorest of the country. The different tribes are referred to as the highlanders, a general term for the indigenous people who live in this mountainous region. The highlanders forests, once partially sacred and a trusted source for their livelihood, has been sold by the government and is still in the process of being sold out. The highlanders watch how roads are being built through their property, how electricity cables are mounted through their jungle, how foreigners and Khmer alike take away their land and trees; fields with their precious mountain rice and sesame, spirit mountains and rivers (dams …
Siem Reap, Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri, Phnom Penh
Peace is all people want – and businesses, foreign and local, take advantage of it, exploiting the country and their people to a point of no return.
Travelling around the country after the Khmer Rouge “left” – accompanied by armed military guards.