Green Deserts: The Palm Oil Conflict

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A team of Indonesia’s elite special mobile brigade national police unit (BRIMOB) evicted people from three settlements in the rural outpost of Batin Sembilan in Sumatra, Indonesia, in August 2011. The police fired guns to scare them off, and then deployed heavy machinery to destroy their dwellings and bulldoze them into the nearby creeks, according to a report published by a team from U.K.-based Forest Peoples Programme, U.S.-based Rainforest Action Network along with Sawitwatch in Indonesia.

The incident took place at the 20,000-hectare oil palm concession of PT Asiatic Persada, a 51 percent-owned subsidiary of the Wilmar Group. A major owner of plantations and producer of a wide range of edible oils, the largest percentage of which is palm oil, Wilmar aims to be Asia’s largest agribusiness group.

“BRIMOB have been actively persuading the people to leave, and have frequently fired their guns to frighten the people,” emailed Indonesian activist Uki.  “They were contracted by the company in July 2011 to assist [the removal of people]. As well as chasing the people from their homes, they have been daily patrolling near the remnant settlements and discharging their weapons. The local government wants the people to accept the joint venture. They do not recognize people’s customary rights.”

Indeed, this correspondent saw Indonesian police displaying a badge for POLDA (Polisi Daerah or district police) on one shoulder and on the other, the logo of a commercial security organization owned by the police.

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Melody Kemp
Thursday, February 16, 2012

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