5 shot in conflict over oil palm plantation in Sumatra

February 03, 2012

Five villagers were shot in Indonesia's Riau Province on the island of Sumatra during a clash in a land dispute over an oil palm plantation, reports The Jakarta Post and Republika.

The violence occurred when heavy machinery owned by PT Mazuma Agro Indonesia (MAI), a palm oil developer, moved into an area of land local residents claims as their own. As many as 200 villagers attempted to block MAI workers, who were accompanied by private security personnel and the Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob), a special operations unit run by the Indonesian police.

The victims were taken to a local hospital. Several villagers were also arrested.

According to the Riau Palm Oil Farmers Union, the dispute dates to 1998. The community of Batang Kumuh, which residents claim lies in Riau Province, says the 5,800-hectare site belongs to them, but MAI was issued a permit to develop the land by the government of North Sumatra Province. A court ruled in favor of Batang Kumuh last year, but MAI has since appealed the case to the Supreme Court and continues to work on the land.

The clash came just a day after the Ministry of Forestry said it will start to require applicants for forest concessions prove there aren't overlapping claims on the lands they seek to develop.

Land conflict is common in Indonesia. Only 12 percent of the country's forest area has been legally delineated leading local communities to sometimes take matters into their own hands when confronted by loggers and plantation developers. Worsening the situation, some companies rely on private security forces and police to forcibly evict customary forest users from their lands.

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mongabay.com (February 03, 2012).

5 shot in conflict over oil palm plantation in Sumatra.