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During the region's early history, its Khmer Loeu inhabitants were exploited as slaves by neighboring empires.The slave trade economy ended during the French colonial era, but a harsh Khmerization campaign after Cambodia's independence again threatened Khmer Loeu ways of life.Small quantities of amethyst, peridot, and black opal are also produced.Gems are generally mined using traditional methods, with individuals digging holes and tunnels and manually removing the gems; recently, however, commercial mining operations have been moving into the province.As of the 2017 communal elections, commune councils in Ratanakiri are composed of 207 members representing the CPP, 51 members representing the Cambodia National Rescue Party, and two members representing the Grassroots Democracy Party.
It's also regarded as one of the top 10 Tantra temples of India, and has the only Bhasm-Aarti (ash ritual) of its kind in the world. Sujata Mukherjee tells us about her experience at the Mahakaleshwar temple.Some Khmer Loeu were forcibly moved to the lowlands to be educated in Khmer language and culture, ethnic Khmer from elsewhere in Cambodia were moved into the province, and roads and large rubber plantations were built.Between March 1969 and May 1970, the United States undertook a massive covert bombing campaign in the region, aiming to disrupt sanctuaries for communist Vietnamese troops.Increasing tourism in Ratanakiri has been problematic because local communities receive very little income from tourism and because guides sometimes bring tourists to villages without residents' consent, disrupting traditional ways of life.
A few initiatives have sought to address these issues: a provincial tourism steering committee aims to ensure that tourism is non-destructive, and some programs provide English and tourism skills to indigenous people.
Ratanakiri is sparsely populated; its 184,000 residents make up just over 1% of the country's total population.