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30 Jun 2020

Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay

Indonesia: Indigenous farmer jailed for cutting trees in long-standing land conflict with paper company

'Indonesian court jails indigenous farmer in conflict with paper giant APP', June 2, 2020

Activists have condemned the conviction and jailing of an indigenous farmer in Sumatra whose community is embroiled in a long-standing land dispute with paper giant Asia Pulp & Paper (APP). On May 18, a court in Bengkalis district, Riau province, sentenced 58-year-old Bongku, from the Sakai indigenous tribe, to one year in prison and ordered him to pay 200 million rupiah ($13,800) in fines for cutting down acacia and eucalyptus trees planted by PT Arara Abadi (AA), a subsidiary of APP. While the company holds the concession to the land, the Sakai settled it decades earlier. AA’s concession spans 292,262 hectares… Bongku had cleared half a hectare… chopping down 20 of the company’s pulpwood trees near his home in Duluk Songkal village to plant sweet potatoes for his family. …

Bongku’s case is a textbook example of how indigenous peoples continue to be defenseless against powerful companies grabbing their land… Indonesia’s national human rights commission, known as Komnas HAM, has recommended that the Sakai tribe be recognized as the rightful owners of the land … [There are reports of] threat and a form of intimidation toward civil society and human rights defenders who demand justice for Bongku.