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Cambodia groups hold land forum
By Guy De Launey - BBC News, Phnom Penh

Cambodian forest Many groups have suffered loss of land
The indigenous peoples of Cambodia have been holding a forum to discuss the threat to traditional territory posed by incomers and land speculators.

The forum was an effort to find a common strategy to reverse the trend.

Representatives from 15 provinces made the arduous journey to Stung Treng, in the remote north-east of the country.

The indigenous peoples now plan to enlist the UN's help, and hope this will persuade the government to pass laws to recognise minority rights.

Cambodia's indigenous peoples are all facing similar problems and the forum was a valuable opportunity to share experiences and formulate strategies.

Land grabs, the destruction of the natural environment and the erosion of traditional culture were all on the agenda.

Samuerng is a member of the Tampuen minority in Ratanakkiri, who has seen traditional burial grounds sold off for commercial development.

"The place now is a rubber plantation," he says.

"We can't go there now because the new owner of the land doesn't allow us to go there again because he has bought it from the people in the village."

Building links

The workshops and speeches were interspersed with traditional performances to illustrate indigenous culture.

Graeme Brown of Community Forestry International works with several minority groups, and says that until recently many of the tribes had been unaware of the others' existence.

"Indigenous people were saying that they never knew there were other indigenous people," Mr Brown says.

"So by meeting other indigenous groups and knowing that they're sharing the same problems, they feel so much more confident in facing the problems that they do face in their own local area."

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