Indigenous Cambodians stripped of ancestral land

In the remote and densely forested northeastern province of Mondulkiri in Cambodia, Song Pro, a member of the indigenous Bunong community, stares at a rubber plantation that was once a sacred forest.

When the war in Indochina came to Cambodia in the 1970s, the forest saved Song Pro.

At the sound of planes, she and her family hid deep within its trails and trees, its canopy providing cover from the sights of American bombers.

“We were safe in that sacred place,” said the now 60-year-old farmer. But when peace finally returned, Song Pro and her community could not save the forest.

One morning in 2008, bulldozers arrived. The land where Song Pro and her community had farmed, foraged and worshipped all their lives was now someone else’s property.

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Nehru Pry