Stammefolk i slem miljø-klemme på vestlige Ny Guinea

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GOHONG, 28 March 2014 (IRIN): The clearing of forests inhabited by indigenous people in Indonesia’s Papua Region (Irian Jaya) by agribusinesses is fuelling conflict in the southern Merauke Regency, say campaigners.

“Indigenous peoples rely on their land for their survival and therefore any incursion onto their land creates serious problems for any community,” Sophie Grig, a senior campaigner for Survival International, a UK-based indigenous rights advocacy organization, told IRIN.

“These incursions in West Papua generally also involve the presence of the military to protect the project [which] leads to human rights violations,” noted she.

Over the past four years, at least 74 people have died in the village of Baad alone – one of more than 160 across Merauke- due to infighting between communities created by disagreements over the sale of land to agribusinesses.

Police brutality, according to Leonardus Maklew, a Baad resident who has been representing nine Malind villages in negotiations to defend their land from an Indonesian sugar cane plantation since 2010.

“The most serious consequences have been human deaths. Up until now, the police, companies, and military never tried to understand our needs and our struggle,” said the 35-year-old ethnic Malind man.

“Police and military personnel routinely accompany companies when they come to ask the Malind to sell their land. It is a form of intimidation,” said Sophie Chao.

She is a project officer with the Forest People’s Programme (FPP), a non-profit organization registered in the Netherlands that campaigns for the rights of indigenous peoples of the tropical forest facing environmental destruction and human rights violations.

Since 2009, when the local government initiated planning for the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), a mega development project aiming to convert more than a million hectares of forest to agribusinesses in Papua, at least 12 corporations have moved into new areas.

They are inhabited by an estimated 116.500 indigenous peoples generally known as the Malind, who are struggling to survive in increasingly degraded (nedslidte), deforested environments.

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