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Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact

Claiming Our Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Standing for the Rights of All Marginalised Sectors

Chiang Mai, Thailand

10 December 2016 

Statement of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact for International Human Rights Day 2016

Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) staunchly claims indigenous peoples’ rights and firmly stands for the rights of all marginalised sectors across the globe this International Human Rights Day 2016. This year, the world has seen grave violations, neglect and outright disregard for basic human rights. AIPP denounces any actions that curtail any human rights, which perpetrate fear, want and desperation in the hearts of the people.

Indigenous peoples in Asia and across the globe are continuously experiencing repression and violation of their fundamental and collective rights, particularly their land rights and rights to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). Governments and transnational companies continue to silence indigenous peoples’ voices and disregard their rights in the name of profit. In 2015, Global Witness’ On Dangerous Ground recorded 185 killings of land and environmental defenders, i.e. people struggling to protect their land, forests and rivers from mining, agribusiness, hydropower and logging activities. Of this number, 40% are indigenous peoples with majority of the cases happening in Southeast Asia, with the Philippines being the second highest with 33 killings. Furthermore, there remain to be unsolved cases of indigenous human rights defenders such as the case of Porlajee ‘Billy’ Rakchongcharoen of Thailand who disappeared in 2014 and Kalpana Chakma of Bangladesh who was abducted in 1996, to name a few. The violations of human rights continue to take place with impunity in many countries.

The shrinking democratic space for human rights defenders is a continuing threat and looms over indigenous peoples’ fight for their ancestral lands and against injustices. Jannie Lasimbang, an indigenous woman activist from Malaysia, was prosecuted for her peaceful campaign for clean and fair elections. The court has yet to give their final decision on her case. Meanwhile, in Cambodia, Venn Vorn, an indigenous Chong activist who is campaigning against the proposed construction of a hydropower dam in the Areng Valley, was arrested and accused of “forest crimes.” On 21 September 2016, the Court of Appeals upheld its conviction and one-year suspension of Ven Vorn and his appeal was rejected without justifications.

The relentless persecution of indigenous peoples is still apparent this year. On 12 September, a Thai court upheld the Thai government’s eviction of an indigenous community from the Kaeng Krachan National Park at gunpoint while razing their houses to the ground. Even worse, the court ordered the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation to pay an insulting amount of 10,000THB to each plaintiff as compensation, which the Department refuses to even acknowledge.

In the Philippines, an outright violation of the rights of indigenous peoples to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression occurred on 19 October. The demonstration ended in a violent dispersal by the police, with a police van barrelling its way to the protesters who were calling for the Philippine president to stop militarisation of their ancestral lands which paved the way for mining and agribusiness.

On 6 November in Bangladesh, the houses and community farms of indigenous Santal families were burned down by authorities in support of the Rangpur Sugar Mills. A total of 1200 families were affected and three people were killed. Similarly, in Cambodia, six ethnic Kuoy families were violently evicted from their homes in Preah Vihear. The Chief District denied the allegations, justifying their actions were meant to develop the village.

Also, on 29 November, a group of Orang Asli and Orang Asal in Kelantan, Malaysia was arrested in a peaceful demonstration against the government and logging companies who acquired logging licenses without FPIC. They were all released but their lands and lives remain under threat.

The struggle of indigenous peoples to defend their fundamental and collective rights is indeed an enduring uphill battle. For this year’s Human Rights Day, AIPP reaffirms its call on states as the duty bearers to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of indigenous peoples. It also reiterates the call of indigenous women in the 16-day Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign to end social injustice and ensure equity and equality for all. Critical to women’s emancipation are the protection of indigenous peoples’ right to property and the recognition of women’s role and contribution to sustainable resource management, food security and biodiversity protection and enhancement.

AIPP commemorates and pays tribute to all the indigenous human rights defenders, including women, who were viciously silenced. AIPP salutes those who continue to fight for their fundamental and collective rights despite the ominous and imminent danger.

Joan Carling

AIPP Secretary General