Four villagers were injured and several vehicles destroyed in a clash between local residents and palm oil company guards in Indonesian Borneo last week. The clash is the latest incident in a long-running conflict between Wilmar subsidiary PT Bumi Sawit Kencana and villagers in Kotawaringin Timur district, Central Kalimantan.
The fighting broke out on Tuesday last week after PT BSK security guards allegedly hit several residents of Pantap village and damaged their motorbikes. The villagers were protesting the construction of a ditch by the company on land they claimed to belong to the village, Mongabay-Indonesia reported on Sunday.
After the initial incident, protesters fled to their village, notifying other residents before returning to the site where they found the guards arming themselves with homemade guns and pistols. The villagers burned two company security posts and damaged two trucks and one car belonging to the company. Four people were injured in the clash, and one motorbike belonging to a villager was destroyed.
Oil palm plantation in Central Kalimantan in 2013.
District police have since meditated talks between the company and residents and both sides have agreed to make peace, Antara News reported on Wednesday. District Police Comr. Himawan Bayu Aji told Antara that as part of the peace deal the company agreed to provide medical care to residents injured in the clash and to replace villagers’ motorbikes that were damaged by the company. The company also agreed to stop construction on the disputed ditch, Himawan said.
However, some fear the conflict will continue to simmer unless problems are addressed at their roots.
Arie Rompas, executive director of the Central Kalimantan branch of Friends of the Earth Indonesia (Walhi), said Tuesday’s clash was the result of a long-standing conflict that was never adequately resolved by the government. The conflict has been ongoing since 2006, and, according to Arie, is one of many conflicts in the area related seizures of community land in the Wilmar concession.
“There is not even one land problem that has been resolved [in Pantap village], the same for the other villages that are in the concession,” Arie told Mongabay-Indonesia in an email on Thursday. “They [the villagers] have already lost their land and the source of their livelihoods,” he said, adding that if the conflicts were left unchecked they were likely to continue to escalate and spread.
Arie urged the government to put together a special body to handle agrarian conflict and to limit large-scale plantation development schemes were a small number of people control large areas of land.