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I got the final confirmation from the UN Human Rights Council for my appointment as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (SRRIP). Just thinking of what this means, overwhelms me.
I was a reluctant applicant as I know the work this position requires and I was not sure that this is what I wanted to do.
I was involved in drafting and negotiating the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) from 1987 until it was adopted in 2007 by the UN General Assembly. But that was only the beginning.
We have to continuously raise the awareness of governments, the UN and the society at large that there is this Declaration that sets the minimum international standards to ensure the survival, dignity, and well-being of indigenous peoples.
The more difficult task is getting States and third parties, e.g. private corporations, to respect, protect and fulfill these rights. This is the daunting task which the Special Rapporteur is mandated to do.
She or he will monitor the human rights situations of indigenous peoples all over the world and promote ways to address the obstacles in implementing the UNDRIP and all relevant international human rights standards.
The sad reality is that there is still a long way to go before we can say that the UNDRIP is effectively implemented in the Philippines and the rest of the world. There remains a big implementation gap.
Just this month of March, a series of killings of indigenous persons by unknown armed men. Among those who were killed is William Bugatti, a human rights activist and a Tuwali from Ifugao, whom I personally know. He was shot in March 27 in Kiangan, Ifugao while he was riding home in his motorbike.
Then a Tingguian family, Licuben Ligiw (father) and his two sons Edwin and Fermin, were killed in March 2 and buried in a shallow grave in Sukaw, Domenglay, Baay-Licuan, Abra. It was alleged that this was done by members of the 41st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. Bugatti and the Ligiw family were associated with the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance, the body I used to chair in the early 1990s.
There will be many similar cases which will be brought to my attention when I will assume this post. How will I absorb all these tragic stories and still maintain my objectivity, independence and optimism?
What kind of help can a Rapporteur realistically do with such cases, outside of bringing this to the attention of governments and the UN? What kind of support networks should I reach out to or establish to help me do my work and how to set these up? There will be high expectations from members of indigenous peoples’ movement from this position and I doubt if I can even meet half of these.
These and many other questions come to mind as I ponder on how I will effectively undertake my mandate as a Special Rapporteur.
It is crucial that indigenous colleagues and human rights activists sharpen their documentation skills so that strong evidences will accompany complaints brought to me. Governments also have to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur.
One of the biggest challenges which Special Raporteur James Anaya identified in his final report is how difficult it is to get governments to officially invite him to their countries to look at the human rights conditions of indigenous peoples. He says that while many States have stated that they have standing invitations to Rapporteurs, it is still not easy to get one. I hope the Philippines will be one of the first countries to officially invite me.
I am very much aware of the great work done by Professors Rodolfo Stavenhagen and James Anaya, the first two Special Rapporteurs. In 2002, I helped organize the official country visit of Stavenhagen to the Philippines. I took part in some of the dialogues they held with indigenous peoples and others.
They have significantly raised the bar of what Rapporteurs can do. I need to build upon the achievements of these two men, both of whom I regard in high esteem.
My experiences of more than four decades as an indigenous activist doing community organizing, movement building and advocacy for human rights of indigenous peoples and women will no doubt help me.
Drafting and negotiating the UNDRIP and being the Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) from 2005-2009 are additional experiences which will come in handy. Strong support from indigenous peoples and governments, NGOs, the UN system, the academia and also faith-based groups and donors will be needed to sustain the task of a Rapporteur. I look forward to the conversations with all these groups.- http://rappler.com/
Five indigenous girls and women raped in a month in Khagrachari, law- enforcing agencies continue to offer impunity to perpetrators20 March 2014, 2:32 am Written by Kapaeeng Foundation
Since the incident of killing of Sabita Chakma allegedly by some Bengali settlers on 15 February 2014, five indigenous women and girls were subjected to the sexual violence in different places of Khagrachari district. Except three rapists of a 19-year old Marma girl in Manikchari upazila on 7 March 2014, no perpetrator was arrested by the police. Even police did neither arrest, nor tried to arrest any perpetrators of Sabita Chakma killing.
Systematic production of negative results as always, this time two medical investigation reports — killing after rape of Sabita Chakma and rape of another 15-year old Marma girl also found negative. Another medical test report of gang rape of a 19-year old Marma girl in Manikchari upazila is yet to be published. As usual, authority of Khagrachari district hospital is trying to avoid providing the medical report of this incident in order to save the perpetrators, though perpetrators of this gang rape confessed their misdeed before police and public.
It is alleged that the killing case of Sabita Chakma was manipulated and made deliberately weak by the police to save the perpetrators, using ignorance of Sabita Chakma’s husband, Deba Ratan Chakma, the complainant of the report. On 15 February in the evening, Deba Ratan Chakma, along with the name of suspected Bengali labourers and other necessary information went to the police station to file a case. But they failed due to power outage. However, they handed over they names of the suspected Bengali labourers to the police and then left police station for home. In the night, police composed statement/deposition excluding names of suspected labourers and took signature of Deba Ratan Chakma when he reached at police station on 16 February in the morning. As a result, the alleged killers are scot-free and concerned authorities are yet to take any action against them.
It is mentionable that the biggest concern in rape and other violence against indigenous women in Bangladesh is the lack of access to justice and absolute impunity that perpetrators enjoy. In rape cases, the victim ends up going through further harassment from the side of the administration and law enforcers. There have been instances where doctors at hospitals have refused to give indigenous women medical examination or delayed the medical treatments so that the evidences disappear. There is intimidation from the security forces. There have also been complaints about police delaying/refusing to take the case and many have been too fearful to file cases due to this. These and many other administration-led intimidation and harassment ultimately result in the perpetrator getting away with his crime.
A teenage indigenous girl gang raped in Manikchari
Right before the day of International Women's Day, on 7 March 2014 at around 12:30 pm, a 19-year old indigenous girl was gang raped by a group of three Bengali settlers of Pichlatala union under Manikchari upazila in Khagrachari district. Police arrested Shahidul Islam (25) son of Samsul Haque, Mahbub Alam (27) son of Sohrab Howlader, and Billal Hossain (24) son of Fazlur Farazi in this connection.
It is learnt that the victim, who work as a domestic worker in Chittagong district, went to Khagrachari town for a visit in the morning on the day of the incident. After visiting for few hours in the town, she took a Feni bound bus and got off at a place named Jaliapara to catch a Chittagong bound bus to go to her home in Manikchari. Accordingly she managed to catch a Chittagong bound bus from Jaliapara. When the bus reached Gobamara areas, the supervisor of the bus asked for fair. In response, she offered him TK. 10 instead of regular fair of TK. 15 as she did not have any more money left in her purse. But the supervisor nagged her to pay Tk. 15 and forced her to get off the bus at some point.
Some Bengali settlers at a nearby tea stall noticed this incident and asked what had happened. She explained the incident to them and said that she did not have any money left with her to return home. Then they called a local motorcycle driver named Shahidul Islam belonging to Bengali settler community to send her home.
When Shahidul and the indigenous girl reached Pichlatola areas, Shahidul spoke to Sohrab and Billal over mobile phone, and told her that since he did not possess a driving license, they would have to take an alternate route through the jungles. After a little while along that jungle road, Shahidul and Billal appeared as planned over phone. Then all three of them raped her forcibly and left alone in the jungle.
Afterwards, she managed to walk all the way back to Gobamara and informed local Bengali settlers about the incident. The culprits were immediately captured by the locals, led by UP Chairman Abul Kalam, and handed over to the police. The girl was sent to the Khagrachari General Hospital for medical examination on the same day. Medical examination report is yet to be published. The doctors is refusing to provide report.
A case was filed with Manikchari police station by Mr. Chi Thoai Marma, son of Kajo Marma, a relative of the victim. The court sent the perpetrators to the jail.
An indigenous Marma girl raped in Matiranga
On 25 February 2014 at around 11:00 am, an indigenous Marma girl (15) was raped by two Bengali settlers at Kumar Para of Amtali union under Matiranga upazila in Khagrachari district.
It is learnt in the morning on the day of the incident, the victim went out to nearby bush areas to collect wild vegetables. On her way back home two persons named Abdul Khalek, 22, son of Rahim Mian and Mohammad Taru miya, 23, son of late Lal Mian, both from Ramshira Para under Matiranga upazila, belonging to Bengali settler community forcibly raped her. Later the victim was rescued by locals after she they heard her scream.
The victim is a resident of Amtali village and a student of class nine at Khagrachri Technical School and College.
An indigenous woman attempted to rape by security person in Sajek
On 18 February 2014, an indigenous Chakma woman, 28, was attempted to rape allegedly by security person in Laxmichari areas of Sajek union under Baghaichari upazila in Rangamati district.
On the day at around 12:00 am, warrant officer named Md. Kader and one of his bodyguards from Laxmichari camp went to Laxmichari bazaar in order for buying firewood. Later they went to the house of victim near to the market. At that time, the victim was present there alone. Finding her alone, warrant officer Md. Kader took the advantage of the absence of her family members and embraced the victim from the back without her permission and accordingly attempted to rape her. Being suddenly the indigenous woman shouted and people from surrounding areas came to rescue her. Other military personnel immediately rushed to the spot when they got to know about the incident.
On 21 February 2014, Inter Service Public Relation Directorate, at a press briefing, denied the occurrence of this incident. The press release said that there was a misunderstanding in relation to the incident occurred on 18 February. Press release claimed that misunderstanding arose after a patrol of Laxmichari army camp arrived at victim’s house, which was later terminated at the presence of local people; but a vested group was trying to use this issue by distorting and exaggerating the incident. It further stated that Bangladesh army ensued an investigation of the alleged incident soon after they had been notified. And commensurate disciplinary action would be taken against the alleged military personnel if allegation can be proved.
Attempt to rape of an indigenous minor girl in Panchari
On 14 March 2014, a 13-year old indigenous Chakma girl was attempted to rape by a Bengali settler named Mohammad Aitullah at her home in Logang Machchhochara under Panchari upazila in Khagrachari district.
It is learnt that at around 1:30 pm on the day of the incident, Md. Aitullah of Logang Cluster Village in Panchari went to collect bamboo from a forest next to victim's village. While he was passing by the house of Chokhkala Chakma, Md. Aitullah thought the victim was alone at home and tried to rape her forcefully. At that time the victim shouted out and her father Ranakkya Chakma got awake from his sleep. Soon after he came out of his room, Md. Aitullah managed to scape. It is notable that the victim is an intellectually disabled person.
The news of the incident spread immediately after of its occurrence. Later Mr. Jalatkar Chakma, Chairman of Logang Union Council; Md. Lokman, a Member of Logang Union Council and other important persons of Logang areas, along with police, went to visit Chokhkala Chakma’s house. Since Chokhkala Chakma is a financially insolvent person, he did not wish to file a case with police. He rather preferred to receive justice from the society.
For this reason, on 17 March 2014, an arbitration was held at the presence of above-mentioned persons of Logang areas where following decisions were made to provide BDT 5000 by the Union Council and BDT 5000 by the perpetrator to the victim as compensation. It is also decided that Md. Aitullah would be produced to another arbitration within a week; otherwise Chairman of Logang Union Council would file a general diary with the police station.
(A Human Rights Organization for Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh)
Shalma Garden, House # 23/25, Road # 4, Block # B, PC Culture Housing, Mohammadpur, Dhaka-1207, Telephone: +880-2-8190801
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines (March 10, 2014) -- Filipino indigenous woman leader Victoria Tauli-Corpuz has been named as Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples rights, a position in which she will assess the condition of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples worldwide.
United Nations Human Rights Council president Boudelaire Ndong Ella confirmed Tauli-Corpuz’s selection on March 3, noting her “active involvement with United Nations and multi-stakeholder cross-regional bodies on indigenous issues and her past collaboration with and commitment to constructive engagement among governments and indigenous peoples.”
The Council also considered “her vision for the mandate including a desire to extend the current Special Rapporteur’s work on sustainable and inclusive economic development would deliver particular benefits for the mandate” and “the value a gender perspective would bring.”
“It will be considered as agreed ad referendum by all Members, if there is no objection by close of business on Friday 7,” Ella said in a March 3 letter to Council members. The formal appointment of Special Rapporteur mandate holders, however, will be announced on March 28, the last day of the 25thsession of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
As Special Rapporteur, Tauli-Corpuz will conduct thematic research on issues relevant to the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples; visit countries to observe and hear about the challenges faced by indigenous peoples; and communicate with governments when human rights violations are alleged.
Tauli-Corpuz founded Tebtebba, a nongovernment organization which -- since 1996 when it was founded -- has been engaging with the United Nations on concerns such as indigenous peoples rights, sustainable development, climate change and biodiversity. She is also the convenor of the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network.
As an indigenous leader and activist, she was among those who lobbied for more than 20 years before the UN General Assembly finally adopted on September 13, 2007 the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
For her new post, Tauli-Corpuz will derive the wealth of her past experiences as former Chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the highest advisory body on indigenous issues within the United Nations system, from 2005-2009.
She was also an Expert for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations.
She was a Philippine government delegate to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change as REDD Plus lead negotiator, and was a co-chair of the convention’s working group on REDD Plus under its Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA). REDD Plus refers to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.
As she anticipates the demands of the work, Tauli-Corpuz intends “to embark on cutting-edge studies to surface indigenous peoples’ issues.”
Among these possible studies, she said, shall focus on the impacts of big business on the rights of indigenous peoples. She said many conflicts arise as big business such as plantations and big mining encroach into indigenous peoples’ lands and territories without public consultation and transparency.
Tauli-Corpuz thanked those various indigenous peoples and civil society organizations, which endorsed her to the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights of the UN in Geneva.
Expecting a “daunting task” ahead, she said she expects to collaborate with other indigenous partner organizations in various parts worldwide, which expressed their support.
Aroha Te Pareake Mead of the Maori Victoria Business School in Wellington, New Zealand and chair of the IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy said the news of Tauli-Corpuz’s choice by the HRC president is “very fitting for you and us.”
“We look forward to seeing Victoria Tauli-Corpuz take on this considerable task and to continuing our collaboration with her in the future,” said the Copenhagen-based nongovernment International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) in a statement. “We are certain that she will make excellent use of her expertise and experience in this important position, for which she has our full support.”
For more information on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, please go to the following link:
(Tebtebba Indigenous Information Service)
+63919 899 2639
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—The United Nations has provided women with more than enough convenants to protect their rights.
But these remain abstract notions unless women get to know about these rights so they could be asserted, according to a new indigenous women’s rights handbook that was launched here in time for International Women’s Month this March.
“A Handbook on the CEDAW: Realizing Indigenous Women’s Rights” seeks to help indigenous women “know what their rights are and how to claim and assert them,” according to its authors, Eleanor Dictaan-Bang-oa and Helen Tugendhat.
The authors said covenants like the 1981 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women or CEDAW, which codifies international legal standards for women, “remain abstract if they are not claimed and exercised by the rights holders.”
The 222-page book was jointly published by the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network, the United Kingdom-based nongovernment Forest Peoples’ Program which focuses on forest peoples’ rights in various parts worldwide, and Tebtebba, a Baguio-based NGO concerned with indigenous peoples’ rights and development.
The book seeks to help indigenous women wade through the maze of the UN bureaucracy. It stresses the need for the “voiceless” such as indigenous women to tap international human rights mechanisms as platforms for airing their grievances.
“Decisions and recommendations from these human rights mechanisms also carry significant moral and political force and can be used successfully at the national level to push for real change,” according to the handbook.
For example, to seek redress for grievances, the book advises indigenous women to familiarize themselves with two types of human rights bodies: Charter-based human rights bodies and treaty-based bodies.
The first type includes the Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review.
It tells women that there are 10 treaty-based bodies, which monitor implementation of nine core international human rights treaties.
These are the Human Rights Committee; Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; Committee against Torture; Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture; Committee on the Rights of the Child; Committee on Migrant Workers; Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and the Committee on Enforced Disappearance.
Indigenous women can use both charter-based bodies and treaty bodies “to raise their concerns and pressure governments to account for the neglect or violation of their human rights and freedoms,” said the authors.
Before they can even start, indigenous women need to confront the problems of accessing these mechanisms “and these require resources that indigenous women’s organizations cannot afford,” the authors say.
The book says IP women’s groups all over the world need to collaborate in order to “engage these mechanisms.”
Source: Inquirer Northern Luzon, 9:28 am | Sunday, March 9th, 2014, http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/583552/know-your-rights-book-tells-indigenous-women
The indigenous women in Asia and in other regions of the world still lack the necessary knowledge and skills in asserting and making their rights a reality. To address this concern, Asian Indigenous Women’s Network and its partners Forest Peoples Programme and Tebtebba came up with a handbook on the International Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
Realizing Indigenous Women’s Rights: A Handbook on the CEDAW provides information on the rights of indigenous women giving details on CEDAW as the only specific instrument for women. The handbook also provides brief overview of other human rights mechanisms the indigenous women can avail of.
The book is divided into four chapters. Chapter 1 provides a brief overview of the particular situations of indigenous women in Asia, including the particularities of violence they are experiencing with the prevailing and existing conditions in indigenous communities and territories. Chapter 2 deals with the principles of human rights and the international human rights instruments providing for the rights of women. It focuses on the CEDAW as a specific instrument for protecting the rights of women.
Chapter 3 presents the different mechanisms and possible options that indigenous women may take to seek redress for discrimination or violence. It provides specific information and tools that have been developed in aid of asserting human rights based on the mechanisms and procedures provided for under the CEDAW and other international human rights instruments. The final section, Chapter 4, provides a selection of previous jurisprudence from CEDAW that may assist in making arguments for future submissions to that body, or to national and other international legal instruments.
On 15 February 2014, an indigenous Chakma woman named Sabita Chakma (30) was allegedly murdered after gang rape by a group of Bengali settlers at Chengi chor area of Kamalchari union under Khagrachari sadar upazila in Khgagrahari district.
It is learnt that, like any other day before, Sabita went out nearby the Chengi Riverto collect fodder for their cattle in the morning on the incident day. Her neighbours saw her in meadow while she was collecting grass before12:00 noon. Sabita’s neighbours including her husband went back home for a lunch break. In the mean time, Sabita’s husband was worried when she was not coming back home even after lunch time. He along with the villagers started searching her and later at around5.30 pm, the villagers spotted the naked, dead body of Sabita Chakma in a crop field nearby Chengi Chor. The police of Khagrachari sadar and military of Bhuachari camp jointly rescued the dead body from the spot of incident.
It is also learnt that, some Bengali labourers were loading up a truck with sand near the crop field at the time when the victim was last seen alive. The villagers alleged that these Bengali labourers killed Sabita Chakma after raping her one after another, because Sabita’s stuffs were found near by the truck. After killing her, culprits dragged the dead body roughly 10/12 yards away from the spot. The Bengali settlers snatched the gold chain from Sabita’s neck.
Police took the dead body to Khagrachari sadar hospital in the evening of the day for autopsy. Sabita’s husband filed a case in this connection with Khagrachari police station against truck driver named Md. Nizam. Besides, the labourers who engaged in extracting sand during the incidents were identified as-
(1)Md. Razzak, resident of Bhuachari cluster village (however staying at Ganja Para)
(2)Ziaul Haque, resident of Bhuachari cluster village
(3)Md. Anowar, resident of Bhuachari cluster village
(4)Mr. Lasu Marma, resident of Ganja Para.
Police could not arrest anyone yet. Indigenous peoples organisations organised protest in Khagrachari, Rangamati, Chittagong and Dhaka and demanded to arrest culprits and to provide exemplary punishment to them, to provide adequate compensation to the victim’s family, to rehabilitate Bengali settlers outside CHT with dignity and to implement CHT Accord in order to ensure security of indigenous women in CHT.
It is important to mention here that this type of sexual violence on the women of Kamalchari union is not an isolated incident. Another indigenous housewife was hacked to death after rape on 1 October 2011 in this area.
(A Human Rights Organization for Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh)
Shalma Garden, House # 23/25, Road # 4, Block # B, PC Culture Housing, Mohammadpur, Dhaka-1207, Telephone: +880-2-8190801
The world’s female indigenous leaders point out that natural-resource exploitation is not only unsustainable, but a threat to their lives.
The presence of extractive industries on land belonging to indigenous peoples has degenerated into a state of systematic violence against women, the traditional protectors of the natural environment. From Africa to Latin America, women are evicted from their lands, captured by human trafficking networks, and sexually abused.
Thus asserts the organizing committee of the World Conference of Indigenous Women, held last October in Lima, Peru, and whose representatives yesterday ratified a plan of action to eradicate the violence, discrimination, racism and poverty suffered by indigenous women the world over.
They asked states to draw up a new sustainable, redistributive and solidarity-based economic model. They likewise drew attention to the fact that the participation of local communities in the administration of natural resources has been shown to work effectively, and therefore principles such as that of free, prior and informed consent should be respected.
It was also emphasized that if such forms of violence against indigenous women were continued, traditional knowledge of these natural resources would be lost forever.
The document is being adopted as a plan of advocacy leading up to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, Cairo +20, Beijing +20 and the Post-2015 Development Agenda, all of which are promoted from the United Nations Organization itself for the creation of a new world agenda.
‘We indigenous women must participate in all the dialogue and decision-making spaces dealing with these topics and others which concern us and our right to political participation.’ they maintained.
(RANGOON, CHIANG MAI AND NEW YORK, NY)Today marks the launch of an important new report documenting ongoing crimes of sexual violence—over 100 cases documented since 2010, including 47 gang rapes--perpetrated by the Burmese military in ethnic regions of Burma.
The Women’s League of Burma (WLB), consisting of thirteen women’s organizations representing different ethnic areas in Burma, released the report, “Same Impunity, Same Pattern: Sexual abuses by the Burma army will not stop until there is a genuine civilian government, “and is urging an immediate end to these atrocities. The report specifically calls for an end to the prevailing system of impunity that not only enables military perpetrators to evade prosecution, but also fosters a culture of continued and escalating violence.
Events to promote the report are taking place in Melbourne, New York, Washington, D.C., Rangoon and Chiang-Mai.
"To bring justice for the victims of rape and sexual violence, we must take steps to ensure truth, justice and accountability,” notes Tin Tin Nyo, General-Secretary of WLB. “There can be no real reform without stopping all forms of violence, correcting the judicial system, amending the Constitution and enforcing the law to protect women’s lives.”
The report states that despite Burma’s transition to a civilian government, including adoption of a new Constitution in 2010 and elections in 2011, military offensives continue to be waged in ethnic conflict areas. Undeterred by security concerns and access limitations, WLB has reported for over a decade on the Burmese military’s human rights abuses in these conflict areas, including systematic sexual violence.
This report documents multiple instances of post-transition sexual violence involving over 100 women, including 47 gang rapes with victims as young as 8 years old. These crimes are not random events but part of a widespread and systematic pattern of sexual violence. Since 2010, the Burmese government has undertaken limited democratic reforms and conducted peace talks with ethnic groups yet has failed to address these crimes or hold perpetrators accountable.
Both the government and the international community have turned a blind eye to these pervasive human rights abuses. The report outlines a series of actions that are necessary to stop sexual violence crimes, hold perpetrators accountable, respect international law and live up to the recent promise of democratic reform. As recently noted by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the most important step is changing the Constitution, which provides amnesty for and prevents civilian judicial review of all military action.
For further information or press inquiries, please contact
In Cambodia, indigenous families are being displaced from their territories due to the production of sugar cane.
Cambodian indigenous women demanded stop the activities of the Chinese multinational corporations Rui Feng and Lan Feng. They indicate that cultivation and extraction of sugar cane is displacing indigenous peoples from their territories.
According to the portal ruom.net, the Indigenous Peoples’ crops have been burned, their animals have been slaughtered, and their houses have been destroyed. Also, it is reported that thousands of indigenous people have been left destitute. Even, those who raised their voices of protest have been imprisoned.
The indigenous who are displaced are forced to work for these companies, obtaining an average wage of $2.50 per day. In many cases, it is also reported that children are working on sugar plantations.
According to activist group in favor of human rights Adhoc, about 3000 families in the region of Preah Vihear, were affected by the activities of these multinationals.
Through a statement issued last Friday, Cambodian Indigenous Women demanded the implementation of mechanisms to protect the rights of indigenous peoples, and in particular, of indigenous women.
Also, they demanded the effective application of free, prior and informed consent, as well as revocation of land concessions in the region of Bunong.
The complaint is being done within the framework of the celebrations for the Human Rights Day, date in which it is urged to take the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.
We, the indigenous women leaders from eight provinces in Cambodia, together with our advocates from our men leaders, national and regional indigenous peoples organizations, and national NGOs, have come together in this 1st National Indigenous Women’s Human Rights Training on Documentation and Advocacy from 3-6 December 2013 at Phnom Penh, Cambodia, shared and analysed our situation, and have come to the conclusion that our condition of marginalization, discrimination and violence arises mainly from the failure of the Royal Government of Cambodia to respect, protect and fulfill its obligations under national laws and international human rights law. Our lands and resources are being taken away and given to corporations and cronies. Oftentimes, we only know about these when machines come to flatten our farms and homes and clear our forests. This is exacerbated by the failure of the government to implement effectively, judiciously and without delay, the law which allows us to have legal recognition of our collective land rights. Divide and rule is reigning in our communities due to the confusion from the directive to choose individual private land titles over collective land titles. Information on developments coming to our territories, be it economic or social land concessions, dams, mines, researches, land titling, or others, are not available to us in a language we understand, nor given in a manner which respects our traditional decision-making processes, nor in a time which will allows us to process the information and make our own decisions. In almost all instances, we are told that whether we like it or not, our lands will be taken away.
The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) voted for the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 for which it has committed to respect, protect and fulfil our individual and collective rights. The RCG has its Land Law of 2001 and Forestry Law of 2002 which recognizes the collective rights of indigenous peoples to their territory and provides for measures to fulfil these. However, more than 10 years after the legislation of these affirmative laws on our rights, we, indigenous women and our peoples, are fighting for our lives as our lands, territories and resources are being taken away in favor of corporate and state interests. As indigenous women, we suffer disproportionately because we are the main users of forests, keepers of the spirit forests, and responsible for the maintenance of our farms and gardens for the subsistence and welfare of our families. The RGC has assured us under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women to promote gender equality and combat discrimination against women.
On the occasion of the celebration of the 2013 International Human Rights Day, we call on the Royal Government of Cambodia to:
1. STOP granting economic or social land concessions on indigenous territories without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the affected communities. Information on all such concessions, dams, infrastructure development, mines, research and other activities undertaken in our territories must be provided to us within a sufficient period of time for us to study, assess and decide through our own decision-making processes, and in a language which we can understand. This will allow us to say NO to such developments.
2. SUSPEND the implementation of Directive 01BB. Instead FAST-TRACK the implementation of the Sub-decree on communal land titling by providing resources for the information, education and communication on the Sub-decree to all indigenous communities and for meeting the requirements of the communal land registration; allow for experts, including indigenous experts and human rights organisations, to assist indigenous communities to understand the Sub-decree, meet the requirements, and go through the process.
3. STOP IMMEDIATELY the activities of Rui Feng Co. Ltd. and Lan Feng Co. Ltd. in Pramer Commune in Preah Vihear Province which is continuing with impunity destroying our farms, forests, including spirit forests and sacred sites, despite our continuing protests made known to authorities at the local to the national levels. Up to now, no action has been made to finally resolve our concerns except for the issuance of promises while allowing the corporations to continue to destroy our lands and livelihoods. Related to this is the delay in the process of our collective land registration while the ELCs have been easily granted to the corporations.
4. INVESTIGATE immediately the allegations that SOCFIN is threatening villagers in Bousra Commune, Pichreada District, Mondulkiri Province as they go about their traditional livelihood activities and cheating villagers through violations of the provisions of the contract on share-cropping, denying indigenous women and their families to meet their subsistence needs.
5. REVOKE the Social Land Concession in Bunong territory in Bousra Commune, Pichreada Dsitrict, Mondulkiri Province where provincial authorities have granted such concession to non-indigenous people who have destroyed conservation, spirit forests and graveyards, and which has jeopardized the collective land registration process of the affected Bunong communities.
We call on the RGC to respect, protect and fulfil our rights as indigenous women.
Twenty-nine indigenous women and three men representatives from the Bunong, Suy, Kui, Tampoun, Stieng, Jarai, Chorng, Prov and Por peoples from Kampong Speu, Kampong Thom, Koh Kong, Kratie, Mondulkiri, Preah Vihear, Pursat, Ratanakiri, Steung Treng.
Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact
Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association
Indigenous Community Support Organization
Indigenous Rights Active Members
Organization to Promote Kui Culture