As demand for palm oil, timber and minerals continues, governments, companies and criminal gangs are exploiting land with little regard for the people living on it. This is becoming a battlefield for human rights violations, and land and environmental defenders are losing their lives through their peaceful environmental actions around the world.
In a Global Witness Report titled On Dangerous Ground published on June 20 2016, Indonesia has had over 10 documented murders of environmental activists since 2014. Compared to Brazil, who have had over 200, this is relatively low, however with three deaths in the archipelago taking place in 2015 alone, which Global Witness are calling the “deadliest year on record”, this is not a number to take lightly.
Brazil had 50 recorded killings in 2015 and the Philippines 33, with a large percentage of the victims in the Philippines being indigenous people.
In Indonesia, on September 26 2015, Salim Kancil was beaten to death by a mob for being one of the organizers of a protest against a damaging sand mining operation going on at Watu Pecak beach, Lumajang. Over 30 people were arrested, including two village officials who allegedly master minded the attacks (one of whom was also charged with illegal mining and money laundering). WALHI (Indonesian Forum for the Environment) has discovered that earlier threats against the victims had not been responded to.
Felipe Milanez, former deputy editor of National Geographic Brazil said, “Killing has become politically acceptable to achieve economic goals… I’ve never seen, working for the past ten years, in the Amazon, a situation so bad.” For many of the killings that Global Witness has documented, many go unrecorded.