In Thmor Keo commune (Stung Treng Province), near the Lao border, indigenous communities have barriers of language, culture, literacy and distance to overcome to address issues challenging their rights. To ensure stronger representation in the ongoing discussion over use of natural resources in Cambodia, the community based organisation Indigenous Development Active Members(IDAM) was formed in 2010, to work for protection of fishery resources. IDAM works closely with NGO My Village (MVi) and Forum Syd to implement their local activities.
In Thmor Keo, law has not always been consistently enforced. IDAM instituted patrols along rivers and pools and found in 2013 that a mining company (Khmer First Mining and Development) was utilising river water for three machines and polluting the local environment with runoff.
The patrol team took their concerns and evidence to their Village and Commune Chiefs, asking for them to intervene to stop the company. The Commune Chief had prior experience with IDAM and was receptive to their concerns.
The Commune Chief facilitated negotiations between the company and the community regarding the disputed area of the upper Sekong river, near the Lao border. The issue was also reported to local station Apsara TV, and raised with the District Governor.
In July 2013 Stung Treng’s Provincial Governor, accompanied by relevant ministry staff, conducted a meeting with the community and representatives of the company. Local news paid close attention. When the concerns raised were not fully met, the Provincial Governor ordered a halt to the company’s mining activity, and speculation is strong that no continuation will be allowed.