Cambodia’s Indigenous Youth Transforming Communities

Thousands of people came together in Kampong Speu to mark International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples and highlight the work of Cambodia’s indigenous youth to protect their ancestral lands
Indigenous arts group opens the ceremony with performance. Kiripost via WCS
Indigenous arts group opens the ceremony with performance. Kiripost via WCS

More than 2,000 people gathered at Kampong Speu Stadium to mark International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples with traditional performances, insights from conservation and indigenous rights’ leaders, and a celebration of the youth’s efforts to advocate change.

On August 9, the Ministry of Rural Development, Cambodia Indigenous Peoples Organization (CIPO), and WCS Cambodia, commemorated the 29th International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples with a special event.

The celebration also aimed to highlight the indigenous youth's role in transforming their communities through education as part of this year’s focus on ‘Indigenous Youth as Agents of Change for Self-determination’.

This spotlighted the scholarships announced in May by Keo Seima REDD+ project, a collaboration between WCS Cambodia and the Ministry of Environment. The scholarships offer financial support for academic studies, allowing indigenous Bunong students to study in Phnom Penh.

Pyinh Derk was awarded one of the scholarships. She said, "I chose this major because I want to solve land conflicts in my community and use my knowledge to build community capacity on land legal issues," he said in a press release.

To read more stories like this, join our Telegram Channel and subscribe to our email newsletter.

Vibol Neth, WCS Cambodia's Deputy Country Director, added, "These scholarships expand the horizons for these young leaders. They're not just financial assistance but an investment in the youth, empowering them to drive change and be agents for community-wide sustainable development and natural resource conservation."

Cambodia is home to 24 ethnic groups, meaning the value of blending traditional wisdom with modern education is well-known. According to WCS, this pairing allows indigenous youth to “craft culturally-rooted solutions to confront climate change and champion the protection of their ancestral lands”.

WCS said Cambodia has one of the most comprehensive legal frameworks in the Mekong region for indigenous peoples' protection active in various protected areas, including Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary (KSWS).

In KSWS, seven indigenous Bunong communities have seen their land rights and cultural heritage formally recognized and protected, with several more Indigenous Communal Land Titles (ICTs) underway.

Pheany Sruot, a community leader in Sre Lvi Village and attendee at the event, highlighted the vital role of youth. "The more our community, especially our young people, understands land rights, the stronger we stand in protecting our land,” she said.

"Our lands are our past and our future. Our young people get forest protection and REDD+; they're leading the way to keep our forests and traditions alive."

WCS added that many of Cambodia's 450 indigenous communities remain without formal collective land rights. The milestones reached in KSWS, where Cambodia's first ICTs were granted, underscore the need to further extend these rights.


Contact author of the article