Source : mongabay – November 23, 2011
A conflict between villagers in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province and a palm oil developer could turn violent over the company’s decision to press forward with clearing of forest land used by the community, warns the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and its Indonesian partner Telapak.
PT Munte Waniq Jaya Perkasa is currently bulldozing forests around Muara Tae, a village in West Kutai, to establish an oil palm plantation. The company, which is owned by Malaysia-based TSH Resources, is backed by police and other security personnel.
Clearing is strongly opposed by the Muara Tae community which is comprised primarily of indigenous Dayak Benuaq people. The community has set up a guard station near the forest.
At the root of the conflict is a disagreement over 638 hectares of forest. The Dayak Benuaq have used the land for generations but their ownership rights have not been recognized. Accordingly they have been largely powerless in trying to stop PT Munte Waniq Jaya Perkasa, which has acquired a plantation license, from converting the forest.
EIA and Telapak say the standoff represents an opportunity for the Indonesian government to demonstrate its commitment to recognizing customary land rights. In July, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, head of the Indonesian President’s Special Delivery Unit and the REDD+ Task Force, pledged to “recognise, respect and protect” traditional or Adat rights.
Additional leverage may come from Norway’s 1.8 percent stake in TSH Resources. Norway has committed $1 billion to help Indonesia reduce deforestation and peatlands degradation and is therefore a target for criticism when its pension fund investments are linked to forest destruction and social conflict.
For more on this story, see Villagers face off against palm oil firm’s bulldozers.