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30 Jun 2020

Michael Taylor, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Indonesia: Criminalisation of indigenous farmer over deforestation of land disputed with paper giant

'Jailing of farmer who cut 20 trees spotlights Indonesia land conflicts', May 19, 2020

The jailing of an indigenous farmer, using a law meant to stop deforestation by companies, highlights Indonesia's slow progress in protecting indigenous people and ensuring their rights to customary forests... Bongku, a member of the Sakai indigenous group on Sumatra island, was given a one-year prison sentence by a district court on Monday for cutting down 20 trees in a disputed forest area last November without permission from the ministry of forestry. "This verdict is a way to expel and intimidate the Sakai indigenous people into leaving their traditional land," said Andi Wijaya, a lawyer and human rights activist at the Pekanbaru legal aid institute, who represented Bongku… The Sakai people have lived on and cultivated forest land in Riau province for about 60 years... The law used to prosecute the 58-year-old is supposed to apply to corporations that carry out organised forest clearing, human rights activists said… Sakai people have been involved in a land dispute since 2001 with pulp and paper company PT Arara Abadi, which is part of Indonesia's Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP)… Arara Abadi had conducted a field inspection with community representatives in a bid to resolve the dispute over land inside its concession area…