24-hrs Saving Land
Indigenous Suoy.Text by: Jasmine Buckler.Illegal logging, land grabbing and the resulting climate change are the foremost issues threatening the traditional livelihoods and culture of fifty indigenous Suoy families of Khow Dun Thaey village, Kampong Speau, Cambodia.Suoy people are currently among the poorest groups in Cambodia. Historically, they have functioned in an integrated communal (gemeinschaft) society centred on subsistence agriculture, and forest and fish harvesting. Similar to many indigenous societies worldwide, Suoy ecological knowledge, culture and religious tradition determine a reverence and respect for nature, community and family. These knowledge and belief systems integrate every aspect of daily practice and ensure their community does not exploit or exhaust natural resources in consideration of the future needs of their community and the maintenance of biodiversity. However, within this decade Suoy people have fallen victim to land grabbing scams driven by agribusiness whilst also experiencing the rapid irreparable destruction of their homelands and surrounding forest ecosystems driven by Cambodian fuelwood industries. So far this has not only resulted in the loss of food sources such as forest and fish stocks, but the consequential effects of drought and acid rain on retained food and medicinal plant sources. One villager states her concerns toward climate change...«I cannot go to work as there is no rain in my rice field… I have heard that there is a drought in nineteen provinces this year… I am very very concerned, I am worried that I will die. I am worried that others will die. I hope that the gods will show me some mercy...». Her family is still struggling to recover from the financial strain of paying US$713; the cost of delivering a baby in a Phnom Penh hospital two years previously. They have since been forced to beg for rice from other family members and villagers. In the face of climate change Suoy people, like most indigenous and minority groups in South East Asia, are living on the edge of starvation. They are being forced to restructure their society and seek out new livelihoods. Khow Dun Theay now rely solely on subsistence agriculture and a small market of livestock and firewood, however vast distances between the village and provincial markets prove these occupations to be unsustainable.The value of the Illegal logging trade is estimated at approximately US$13 000 000 per year therefore official monitoring has failed to serve the needs of the community forcing farmers to patrol their boundaries night and day for illegal movements. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) and Cambodian League for Promotion and Defence of Human Rights (LICADHO) are currently working with the Suoy community to aid and improve advocacy skills in the face of land grabbing and illegal logging. However villagers are worried that this is not enough.Demographically and ethnographically little is known about Cambodian Indigenous peoples due to the country's recent history of war, genocide, famine, mass migration and forced resettlements. Suoy people were only recently included in the national census however accuracy of data surrounding minority groups is questionable. Like most other Cambodian minority groups, a secure future for Suoy people requires the urgent attention and support of the international community to aid in the defence and registration of communal lands and to advocate human rights where the national judicial authorities and Royal Government consistently fail. «Please help us, don’t forget about us...» were one Khow Dun Theay elder's parting requests.