Listening to the Voices of Cambodian Aboriginal Peoples 2024 - Don Bosco Kep

At the end of the celebration of the 'Voices' event in Cambodia at Don Bosco Kep, dedicated to offering a platform for confrontation and dialogue to the indigenous peoples of that country, the participating groups issued a joint statement. Here below is the declaration statement.


 We, representatives of 8 indigenous peoples of Cambodia - Loun, Kbet, Toum Poun, Prov, Kachak, Kroung, Jarai and Kuy - gathered at Don Bosco Kep, Thmey Village, Prey Thum Commune, Kep District, Kep Province, on the 27th and 28th of January 2024, on the occasion of the Voices of Cambodian Indigenous Peoples 2024, - promoted by the Social Communication Sector of the Salesian Congregation, to listen to our voices, to meditate on our cultural identity, language, community and ancestral territory, and to give a message to humanity.

  We, indigenous elders and young people declare:

 1. Our identity is linked to our ancestral lands. It is the place where we live together, the one we recognize as the space of our traditions, spirituality and language. The loss of the territory in any way, can badly affect our identity, our rights and our own existence. We call on those persons and groups that put in danger the respect for our ancestral lands, to understand that the protection of those lands mean also the protection for the sources of water, air purification, food and living together as siblings. When we enter the territory of other peoples, we ask permission and we pay respect to the elders and to the traditions of those peoples.

 2. Our languages are also an important element of our indigenous identities. It is a priority to protect, defend and promote the indigenous languages in our territories and when we meet each other in other places. We ask for support and stimulation to promote indigenous languages in schools and in media, as well as to train indigenous teachers to create written systems and other ways of language development, survival and even restoration.


 3. Education, medical services and the use of technological tools such as the Internet, belong to our rights and they open positive opportunities to defend our identity, to protect the forests and to ensure our dignity. We expect that these elements can be ensured and promoted, especially to those indigenous groups that are more marginalized from the use of such services.

 4. It is important to preserve the traditional cuisine of the indigenous peoples because it is healthy and traditional, while it is linked to the survival of the same environment. We need that forests and ecological systems are protected and we need to stop the contamination and degradation of the environment that endangers our health and that of others on the planet.

 Ancestral territory

 5. We make a call to all humanity to stop the chaotic and selfish action of deforestation, degradation and destruction of forests, sources of water and uncare actions that are affecting the survival of plants and animals, putting them at risk of extinction. Please understand that such processes based on the mere gain of money, is not only putting at risk our survival as indigenous peoples, but also in any extension the survival of the whole of humanity on this planet.

 6. In our traditions, we have a clear way of land usage that is basically divided in three areas: housing, sacred forest and shifting cultivation. This indigenous system of land usage is friendly with the environment while guaranteeing our own sustainability. It is also a model for other communities in the world. However, we see how many actions of deforestation and land grabbing are destroying this wise system, while imposing another fast production that degradetes the soils and destroys the forest. We advise not only to respect our traditional ways of relation with Mother Nature, but also to study that model and use in those places where the environment has been negatively affected. 


 7. Indigenous spiritualities keep close similarities. We believe in a spiritual word that is closely linked to Mother Nature. We defend our rights to educate our children in that spirituality, to rediscover and to promote the role of the Cha Thom (main elder) as a spiritual leader of our community, as the one that knows the secrets of the forest, our sacred and medicinal plants, the wild animals and the different ways of our traditions. We respect other religions and beliefs, while we expect others to respect our beliefs. We acknowledge that among us, there are siblings that are followers of main religions like Buddhism, Christianity and others. We want to live in harmony with others, because we consider that every religion brings peace and love. Our indigenous spiritualities, although they do not have temples, are the result of ancient wisdom, worthy of attention and respect. Our temples are our own communities, our homes and our forests.

 Fighting discrimination

 8. We need that other people know us much better, so they can understand and appreciate our cultures, traditions and identities. In the past we were silent, but now we need to talk and to bring messages to all humanity, to ensure we can live peacefully with the members of other human groups. If we talk in our indigenous languages or if we dress in our traditional customs, it does not make us ‘foreigners’ or ‘strangers’. In this we need respect, but also understanding, therefore we can also share our wisdom with others.

 9. We want to thank all those groups, individuals and associations, NGOs and government programs, that have shown real actions in order to promote, protect and empower Indigenous rights, human dignity and recognition. But the most powerful actions are those that are effective and that empower our young people in such a way that we are the main leaders of our own development and sustainability. Thanks to platforms of expression like this one of Voices. We really need to raise our voices.

 10. Finally, we reaffirm our commitment to the recovery of the languages, memories, dreams and forms of communication of our people and communities. We are delegates from 8 Cambodian Indigenous Peoples, but there are more indigenous groups in Cambodia and, definitively, we are many in the whole planet, Mother Earth. We expect to continue raising our voices today and in the future for the construction of a better world.

 Approved by consensus by the participants of the 8 Cambodian Indigenous delegates of the Voices of Cambodia Indigenous Peoples 2024.

 Hork Rok (Toum Poun), Mana Tus (Kachak), Lar Proters Ummern (Kroung), Hanhai Aoen (Kavaet), Aokun (Prov and Loun), Pinilo (Jarai).

 Don Bosco, Kep Province, 28 January 2024.