Montagnard in Cambodia
The topography of the Central Highlands extends west into northeast Cambodia (green area on map). Logically Montagnards dwelled there but western authorities felt their number was quite small.
In 1999 Tommy Daniels, our founder, a U.S. Special Forces VN War vet, traveled Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri Provinces and found the Montagnard population was actually substantial, just over 100,000. That figure was later substantiated when the Cambodian Government published the 1998 census. The Montagnards of Cambodia still practice their ancestral livelihoods of subsistence farming, hunting, fishing, and forest gathering.
Two years earlier in 1997 the Cambodian Government extended its controls to this remote area. Since then the hill tribe ecosystem has been under siege. Huge tracts of their ancestral land and forest have been expropriated and sold to Chinese and Vietnamese concessions which are clear-cutting for plantations. Khmer (ethnic Cambodian) regularly claim Montagnard land for investment and building vacation homes.
The influx of ethnic Cambodian (Khmer) migrants from the lowlands is degrading the hill tribe land allocation system. The government restricts highlander forest access denying them critical food and materials.
Because Montagnards in the SRV are becoming extinct those in Cambodia offer the only chance of survival for this magnificent culture. In Year 2000 Tommy Daniels founded CCi to enhance that possibility.
Aside from having the worst public health and nutritional issues in the country, Montagnards are the most illiterate people in Southeast Asia. Unlike in Vietnam, western non-government organizations (NGO’s) are allowed to aid Cambodia’s highlanders but that’s the only intervention on their behalf. Compared to the powerful interests arrayed against the Montagnards it’s not much.