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Mouths are sewn shut in protest against deforestation in Indonesia

Controversial logging concession covers over one third of Padang Island.

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Twenty-eight Indonesians have taken the extreme measure of sewing their mouths shut in a protest turned hunger-strike against a forest concession on Padang Island, reports the Jakarta Globe. Around a hundred protesters, mostly natives of Padang Island, have camped outside the Indonesian Senate building since December 19th to protest a logging concession held by PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) on their island, which lies off the east coast of Sumatra.

The islanders say the 2009 concession occurs on customary lands, threatening both the environment and the small-scale agriculture on which they depend. Isnadi Esman, who has coordinated the protests, said that RAPP’s 41,000 hectare concession extended over 37 percent of the island’s total area.

For its part, RAPP said that if the islanders could prove the land was customary they would leave it. However, RAPP president commissioner, Tony Wenas, told the Jakarta Globe that he had doubts about the protests.

“For all we know, there are ex-cons among the protesters,” Wenas said.

Earlier this year, RAPP was accused of clearing high conservation value forest in Riau province on Sumatra. The forest was a known wildlife corridor for
Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, among other species. RAPP is a major supplier of timber to Asian Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL).

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