Indigenous Kinipan land rights defenders

Kinipan is a small village in Borneo with a population of just under 1,000. In April 2018, the village applied for the recognition of its traditional rights over its forest (hutan adat). The villagers were involved hands-on in charting their land. The people make their livelihoods in rice, rubber, rattan and the fruits of the forest.

In Kinipan, the palm oil company PT Sawit Mandiri Lestari (SML) has a land concession of 26,995.46 hectares and a logging concession of 19,240 hectares. Three quarters of the area is forest and habitat for orangutans and clouded leopards, as well as many other endangered wildlife species and rare tropical trees.

It is directly adjacent to the Belantikan Conservation Programme and the Lamandau Nature Reserve. A plantation would pose a direct threat to endangered species and isolate the protected areas from each other.

The Laman Kinipan community found out that their forest was being taken over by PT SML in April 2018. Consequently, the community imposed customary sanctions against the company after it destroyed their customary territory, and filed complaints to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, National Human Rights Institution Komnas HAM, and the Office of the Presidential Staff (KSP).

Since 2012, SML has been trying to obtain the local people’s approval for the plantation. But the inhabitants of Kinipan have always lodged formal, written rejections of the planned project. They not only fear for the forest and their future, but are also concerned about the potential for landslides and floods.
Amid the pandemic, six Indigenous villagers, including Kinipan community leader Effendi Buhing, and two Indigenous youth, were arrested by the Central Kalimantan Police, in Indonesia, for defending their customary forest against the expansion of PT Sawit Mandiri Lestari (PT SML), a palm oil company.
All of them were released, but are now facing criminal charges for the alleged theft of chainsaw owned by the palm oil company. This chainsaw was confiscated by the villagers to stop the PT SML from further destroying their customary forest.

The unwarranted act by the police was in retaliation to the protest actions and growing resistance of Kinipan villagers against the forcible eviction from their lands by palm oil company.

The arrest of Kinipan Community Leader Buhing clearly shows the double standards of the police forces. The arrest is used as a tactic to criminalize legitimate dissent so as to push for the illegal operations of PT SML into Laman Kinipan Indigenous Peoples customary lands.
Prior to these arrests, the escalation of violence, terror and various forms of intimidation occured in the community. PT. SML uses the hands, uniforms and rifles of the police to silence Indigenous Peoples from fighting for their rights

Even during Covid-19 pandemic, several Indigenous Peoples communities have become targets of criminalization and violence to give way to the operations of large-scale projects involving agribusiness and extractive industries.

If PT SML will have its way, 190, 000 hectares of forest will be lost; thereby reducing one of the biggest rain forests in Southeast Asia and causing severe damage to climate, biosphere, and ecosystem.
Laman Kinipan Indigenous Peoples have long been protecting their forest and environment from total destruction, yet they constantly face threats and violence, arrests and detentions, and criminalization for defending their lands, forests, and territories.


1. fortherock; Borneo Indonesia 2004; November 5, 2003; (CC BY-SA 2.0). 2. Jorge Franganillo; Organgutans at Tanjung Puting National Park; August 4, 2018; (CC BY 2.0). 3. Jorge Franganillo; Tanjung Puting National Park; August 3, 2018; (CC BY 2.0). 4. CIFOR; Aerial view of oil palm plantation; January 20, 2017; (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). 5. CIFOR; Oil palm; January 16, 2016; (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). 6. CIFOR; Women oil palm; January 17, 2018; (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). 7. IndoMet in the heart of Borneo; Maruwei villagers, Central Kalimantan; June 7, 2013; (CC BY 2.0).