PRESS RELEASE | Police releases “terrorist list” memo targeting IP activists

International Indigenous Peoples (IP) group expresses its utmost condemnation in the recently discovered top-secret Philippine National Police (PNP) intelligence memo ordering surveillance on several IP leaders from the Cordillera, including International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) Global Coordinator Beverly Longid.

Recently this September, human rights group Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) obtained a copy of the said confidential memo dated May 28, 2018 and signed by PNP Intelligence Division OIC Alexander Rondal listing 21 names – several are IP leaders, rights advocates and activists in the Cordillera region. The memo addressed to all PNP Chiefs and Regional Intelligence Units orders them to supply a “Summary of Information” on alleged New People’s Army (NPA) ICRC (Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee) leaders and members.

“This is part of the systematic attacks of the Duterte government against progressive organizations critical of the government policies, land defenders, or IP communities against resource plunder. It is an institutional directive of the state that confirms our long belief of surveillance operations to monitor the movements of those they consider as “enemies of the state.” It is a desperate move to supplement the hollow and bereft of evidence DOJ Prescription case against activists. The memo further puts at threat the lives of those under surveillance by tagging them as communist armed rebels due for surveillance,” Longid said.

The confidential memo has 21 names including United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Co-convener of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development Goals Joan Carling, former Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) Chair Atty. Jose Molintas, Co-Chair of Sandugo Joanna Cariño, current CPA Chair Windel Bolinget, Regional Coordinator of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers – Cordillera Jeannete Ribaya-Cawiding, and former Secretary General of the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance-Karapatan Sherwin De Vera.

In February 2018, a DOJ Petition for Proscription to declare NPA and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) as terrorist groups also includes the above names in the police memo.

A motion filed in Manila RTC 19 last August 31 by Atty. Pablo Sanidad II, Longid’s legal counsel, states that the case “without any basis and with pure malicious intent” is only used as an “arbitrary and malicious targeting measure to weaken the IP movement and an unacceptable attack to those who speak up to defend Human Rights.” Cases like this is considered as “travesty to the exercise of the fundamental rights and freedom,” the motion stated.

The trend reflects a global scale of IP attacks notably in developing countries like Latin America, Africa and Asia. A recent UN report underlines two reasons: “lack of respect for indigenous peoples’ collective land rights” and “failure to provide indigenous communities with secure land tenure” favoring big corporations’ mega infrastructure plans, extractive, plantation, logging and eco-tourism development projects located in IP ancestral lands.

“The IP struggles for land rights and self-determination further expose the state and its armed forces’ servitude to investors and companies by using anti-terrorism and anti-insurgency campaigns to target IP activists, silence them and endanger their lives,” Longid added.

A call for “broader and stronger unity against all forms of attacks against those who cry just demands and criticizes oppressive government policies” is echoed by the International IPMSDL.

According to Longid, “the international community must strongly denounce big businesses using state forces and policies to its favor at the extent of our community leaders’ lives. IPMSDL believe that criminalizing dissent do not silent the demands for justice of the IP movement but only fortify their struggle for the achievement of rights, lands, and justice.”


Reference: Beverly Longid, Global Coordinator,

NEWS | Human Rights activist seeks removal from terror list

Krixia Subingsubing, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Taking a cue from the two UN members and two militant leaders cleared from the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) proscription petition to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), its armed wing New People’s Army (NPA) and 600 individuals as terrorists, an indigenous peoples’ rights leader also asked a Manila court that she be declared as a nonparty to the petition.

On Friday, human rights activist Beverly Longid asked Regional Trial Court Branch 19 Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar to clear her from the terrorist list as she was neither an officer nor a member of the CPP-NPA.

She argued that the petition, which was filed in February, not only failed to prove her association with the Maoist rebel group, but also did not apply to her as an individual as a proscription petition can only apply to organizations, associations or group of persons as per Section 17 of the Human Security Act.

Same grounds

Her “unfounded, malicious and irresponsible” inclusion in the list, she said, posed serious threats to her life.

These were the same grounds used by fellow defendants UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, former UN member Jose Melencio Molintas, former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and peace talks consultant Rafael Baylosis.

They were among the over 600 individuals—some of whom were activists, leaders of mass organizations and former Catholic priests—named by the DOJ as alleged leaders and members of the group behind Asia’s longest-running insurgency.

The proscription petition stemmed from President Duterte’s promise to clamp down on the rebel groups following the collapse of peace negotiations between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

‘Virtual gov’t hit list’

Human rights advocates and militants alike have assailed the petition as a “virtual government hit list” meant to harass and threaten progressives and critics of the Duterte administration.

Some of the 600 names included double entries, dubious aliases and generic names—to which Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra had admitted not having vetted.

In August, Malagar’s 14-page resolution cleared Corpuz, Molintas, Baylosis and Ocampo on nearly the same legal bases now being used by Longid.

Longid, a member of several local and international human rights groups, said in an interview that the proscription petition was nothing more than a harassment suit meant to target the “increased resistance” against the abuses committed against indigenous peoples.#


Story posted in on August 3, 2018.


PRESS RELEASE | Indigenous Groups Descend on Manila Court to Protest Terror-List

The groups gathered to press for the dismissal of a proscription list that labels indigenous leaders as “terrorist.”

International Indigenous Peoples (IP) group and several IP organizations from the Philippines marshaled at the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) on August 31 to rally for the dismissal of the Department of Justice (DOJ) proscription list that labels indigenous leaders as “terrorists.” The gathered groups also filed a motion to clear the names of indigenous leaders.

The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-determination (IPMSDL) joined the protest action along with Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu), Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples Rights (TFIP), and BAI Indigenous Women’s Network. The protest was mobilized in time for the submission of a motion and court hearing for the terrorist-tagging case, which includes IPMSDL’s Global Coordinator Beverly Longid. The proscription petition filed by the DOJ, which seeks to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) a terror group, also includes 649 names of alleged CPP-NPA leaders and members. It was filed in the Manila RTC on February 21 following President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation 374 and Human Security Act (HSA) 2007.

Last August, the Manila RTC cleared the names of Satur Ocampo, Rafael Baylosis, Jose Melencio Molintas, and United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz. In the same month, the DOJ admitted in a congress budget hearing that it did not verify the 649 names, many of which are aliases and code names, as supplied by the intelligence of Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police.

“There’s an irresponsibility in the part of DOJ for just listing names of activists and tagging them as terrorists without even submitting an iota of evidence to prove that the names in the Petition for Proscription is involved with CPP and NPA,” said Attorney Pablo Sanidad II, Longid’s legal counsel.

The motion to delist the names states that the HSA 2007 may only be applied to organizations and not individuals, and that the DOJ has not given any summon or any substantial evidence. The delistment of the earlier four names were also on the same grounds as ruled by the court.

“The national and international track record of Longid and all the IP leaders included as an advocate for the recognition and promotion of IP rights and welfare clearly shows that they are not terrorist or anything that the government says they are,” Sanidad II added. “And we pray that the court stands for its duty to protect the rights of rights defenders.”

Longid said, “The state harassment and attacks on activists, human rights defenders, and IP leaders every time they step up their struggle for social change, for the protection of their lands and rights, and against destructive extractive projects and plunder of their ancestral territories shows this systematic targeting of those who rightfully criticize the government policies or corporate businesses. And given the track that President Duterte is treading, this will continue and intensify.”

Since Duterte’s presidency began in 2016, reports of political attacks, civil rights and human rights violations and abuses against IP have been documented. As of February 2018, 178 IP have been illegally arrested based on the monitoring of Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas. Cases of military, paramilitary, and police vilification of IP organizations in Cordillera, fabricated criminal charges against Lumad groups’ council members in Mindanao, forced surrenders of Dumagat IP in Quezon Province after being tortured and threatened, and many others killed and assassinated, have been filed on Commission of Human Rights and state offices.

“The increasing records of gross human rights violations under the state’s counterinsurgency Oplan Kapayapaan and extension of Martial Law in Mindanao is consistent with the global crisis involving legal maneuverings and government policies that favors big businesses and victimize IP communities,” Longid said. The criminalization of IP and land defenders opposing the transformation of ancestral lands into mono-crop plantations, mining and energy projects, and eco-tourism destination smears their reputation and makes them vulnerable targets, as in similar cases in Guatemala, Brazil, India, Columbia, and Africa.

Recently, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) announced that it will open more “areas of mineral reservations” to attract mining companies and pump government income. “It’s not surprising that these areas are also ancestral lands and villages of IP, and also the areas heavily concentrated with military forces and wanton records of human rights violations,” Longid added.

“But it is during these dangerous times when people’s unity and solidarity grow stronger. The people’s movement against the human rights violations of state forces and officials, and against the plunder and dispossession of ancestral lands expands and intensifies to defeat the oppressors,” she said. Several local councils and organizations have submitted petitions to delist the names in the proscription.

A “letter of concern on the increasing harassment and intimidation of indigenous peoples’ leaders and human rights defenders” was endorsed by 16 international organizations and 205 national organizations from 38 other countries from different global regions. An online petition was signed by more than 11,200 individuals from 113 countries.#

Article originally published in The Diplomat .
Reference: Beverly Longid, Global Coordinator,

#IDWIP2018 Photo Contributions

In celebrating the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2018, IPMSDL welcomed materials and original photos depicting the life, struggles, and victories of Indigenous communities in relation to plunder, militarization, and rights violations.

The month-long campaign highlighted the life and continuing struggle of Indigenous Peoples in defense of land and for self-determination. To amplify the unified demands and voice of Indigenous Peoples communities against resource exploitation, militarization, and IP rights violations happening in different communites around the world, contributions echoed the following themes and calls:






Here are the photo contributions IPMSDL received from different Indigenous Peoples communities, individuals, organizations, advocates, IP rights defenders and their networks.

Submerged Dreams of the Bunong People
Kbalromeas Youth

The Indigenous community of Bunong is one of the hardly affected groups by the Lower Sesan II Hydroelectric Project in Kbal Romeas village, Cambodia. The multi-million dollar energy project, owned by corporations from China, Cambodia, and Vietnam, has disrupted the lives and livelihoods of the community, destroyed the cultural fabrics of the Indigenous communities, and uprooted families from their lands. Those who decided to stay in their lands submerged under water receive nothing but State neglect and continuous violation of their rights. Many children had to stop their education while five people already died because of health problems. Despite this, they never give up the fight! The struggle for their right to land, territory, and way of life continues!

“Submerged Dreams of the Bunong People” from Kbalromeas Youth.
“Submerged Dreams of the Bunong People” from Kbalromeas Youth.

Fighting Through Tears & Respect Lumad Rights
Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization

Lumad woman and children from Misamis Oriental in Mindanao, Philippines evacuated with their families due to intensified militarization in their community. The construction of a military detachment, leading to the displacement of 38 Higaonon families, aims to facilitate road and bridge construction for the eco-tourism project of the Provincial Government. Said project wants to transform the sacred hot springs of the Lumad into a resorts and recreational area.The recently-constructed military detachment not only endangers the community, but also violates their right to their ancestral land, as no Free, Prior and Informed Consent was given to the military.

“Fighting Through Tears” from Muy Reyes of Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization.
“Respect Lumad Rights” from Muy Reyes of Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization.

Indigenous Dumagat and Mangyan
Sandra Marie Llarenas of Tunay na Alyansa ng Bayan Alay sa Katutubo (TABAK)/ Genuine Alliance of the People for the Indigenous Peoples

An indigenous Dumagat contemplates while on a community meeting in Rodriguez, Rizal, Philippines, and Mangyan child smiles with some of the delegates of Mangayan Day in Oriental Mindoro, Philippines.

The Dumagat village in Rizal, home to more than a hundred families is in danger of being destroyed, due to the pending New Centennial Water Source Project. The project aims to convert several barangays in Rizal and Quezon province into dams to provide water supply in urban center Metro Manila.

Mindoro’s seven Mangyan tribes – Hanunuo, Alangan, Gubatnon, Iraya, Buhid, Bangon and Tadyawan – yearly gather for the Mangyan Day. This year, the occasion highlights the issues of the geothermal powerplants and the government’s National Greening Project in their ancestral territories.

An Indigenous Dumagat from Sandra Marie Llarenas of Tunay na Alyansa ng Bayan Alay sa Katutubo (TABAK).
A Mangyan child from Sandra Marie Llarenas of Tunay na Alyansa ng Bayan Alay sa Katutubo (TABAK).

A Wildflower
Chuckie Calsado

A wildflower might be most beautiful in a city, where its beauty is unparallelled because of its exoticism. But does this lens matter in appraising this beauty, if said flower was forcibly removed from its home through acts of aggression, tyranny and militarism. Our Lumad brothers and sisters have a right to self-determination, they are not flowers to be plucked and subdued for the oppressors to display.

An indigenous Lumad in a parade against Martial Law. Photo by Chuckie Calsado.

We thank all the contributors and we look forward in collaborating again with everyone in advancing our campaigns for the welfare of Indigenous Peoples around the world!

On the Police harassment of Manipur IP and human rights defender Jiten Yumnam

The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) demands the immediate stop on the harassment of IPMSDL member Jiten Yumnam of Manipur, an Indigenous Peoples (IP) and human rights defender, environmentalist and journalist, after several Police commando appeared without formal notice in his home last August 13, asking his whereabouts, taking pictures of his house and requesting him to face an alleged pending case against him.

In October 2013, Mr. Yumnam was also summoned by Manipur police without any notification or reasons of summon. In September 2009, working as a member of the Committee on Human Rights, he was again summoned by the police and then detained, interrogated and heavily tortured for trumped up charges. The recent incidents of intimidation by police commandos have severely caused undue threat to safety, tension and anxiety to Mr. Yumnam and his whole family. This also constitutes to the continued threats and attacks to rights defenders in Manipur. Currently, more than 1,528 cases of extrajudicial killings in Manipur by army and police is still under investigation according to the Committee on Human Rights, Imphal Manipur.

Mr. Yumnam, as an IPMSDL Regional Coordinating Committee member for Asia and Pacific, Secretary of Center for Research and Advocacy (CRA), Manipur, and a writer for Imphal Free Press, E-Pao.Net, has been very active in educating people on the struggles of different communities for the environment, ancestral lands, and human rights of IP through his writings and advocacy work local and overseas.

In Guatemala, an indigenous farm leader was forced in to hiding after learning that he has a $100 bounty on his head and receiving death threats from suspected ex-military and gang members linked to companies of large infrastructure projects he has opposed. In Ecuador, indigenous leaders and environmentalists protesting against new mining law and oil explorations in Amazon fall victim to “judicial harassment” for the trumped-up charges, arrests and cases extending for years but have been found to have no sufficient evidences. While in the Philippines, several IP leaders active in fighting against corporate plunder of IP lands have been included by the government’s Department of Justice in a “terrorist list” prescribed by the military. Even the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sounded the alarm on the “pattern of abuse, with the private sector often colluding with governments to force Indigenous Peoples from their lands by whatever means necessary to make way for infrastructure, agriculture, mining, and extractive projects.”

Everywhere, while the peoples’ struggle against corporate plunder of resources gain stronger momentum, State offensives against land and human rights defenders consequently intensify. Thus, we call on everyone to stand against any forms of harassment and attacks on Mr. Yumnam and to all human rights and IP defenders around the world. We hold the Police commandoes, the military and state accountable for any untoward incident that may result to the harassment to Mr. Yumnam, his family, and organizations. We appeal to all rights advocate, IP networks and formations to demand an end in criminalizing dissent and defeat any attempt to silence our voices and destroy our united struggle for lands, rights and justice.




Reference: Beverly Longid, Global Coordinator,


El Movimiento Internacional de los Pueblos Indígenas por la Autodeterminación y la Liberación (IPMSDL, por sus siglas en inglés) exige el cese inmediato del hostigamiento a Jiten Yumnam de Manipur, miembro del IPMSDL, defensor de los derechos humanos, ambientalista y periodista, después de que varios comandos de la policía aparecieran sin aviso formal en su casa el pasado 13 de agosto, preguntando su paradero, tomando fotos de su casa y pidiéndole que se enfrente a un supuesto caso pendiente en su contra.

En octubre de 2013, el Sr. Yumnam también fue citado por la policía de Manipur sin notificación ni razones para ello. En septiembre de 2009, trabajando como miembro del Comité de Derechos Humanos, fue convocado de nuevo por la policía y luego detenido, interrogado y sometido a fuertes torturas por cargos falsos. Los recientes incidentes de intimidación por parte de los comandos de policía han causado amenazas indebidas a la seguridad, la tensión y la ansiedad del Sr. Yumnam y de toda su familia. Esto también se debe a las continuas amenazas y ataques a los defensores de derechos humanos en Manipur. En la actualidad, más de 1.528 casos de ejecuciones extrajudiciales cometidas por el ejército y la policía en Manipur siguen siendo objeto de investigación, según el Comité de Derechos Humanos, Imphal Manipur.

El Sr. Yumnam, como miembro del Comité Coordinador Regional del IPMSDL para Asia y el Pacífico, Secretario del Center for Research and Advocacy (CRA), Manipur, y escritor de Imphal Free Press, E-Pao.Net, ha sido muy activo en educar a la gente sobre las luchas de diferentes comunidades por el medio ambiente, las tierras ancestrales y los derechos humanos de los PI a través de sus escritos y su trabajo de incidencia en el ámbito local y en el extranjero.

En Guatemala, un líder campesino indígena se vio obligado a esconderse después de enterarse de que tenía una recompensa de 100 dólares por su cabeza y de recibir amenazas de muerte de supuestos ex militares y miembros de pandillas vinculados a empresas de grandes proyectos de infraestructura a las que se había opuesto. En Ecuador, líderes indígenas y ambientalistas que protestan contra la nueva ley minera y las exploraciones petroleras en el Amazonas son víctimas de “acoso judicial” por los cargos falsos, arrestos y casos que se extienden por años, pero se ha encontrado que no tienen suficientes evidencias. Mientras que en Filipinas, el Departamento de Justicia del gobierno ha incluido a varios líderes de PI activos en la lucha contra el saqueo corporativo de tierras de PI en una “lista de terroristas” prescrita por los militares. Incluso el Relator Especial de la ONU sobre los Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas hizo sonar la alarma sobre el “patrón de abuso, con el sector privado a menudo en connivencia con los gobiernos para forzar a los Pueblos Indígenas a abandonar sus tierras por cualquier medio necesario para dar paso a proyectos de infraestructura, agricultura, minería y extracción”.

En todas partes, mientras la lucha de los pueblos contra el saqueo de los recursos por parte de las empresas cobra mayor impulso, las ofensivas del Estado contra la tierra y los defensores de los derechos humanos se intensifican en consecuencia. Por lo tanto, pedimos a todos que se opongan a cualquier forma de hostigamiento y ataques contra el Sr. Yumnam y contra todos los defensores de los derechos humanos y de la propiedad intelectual de todo el mundo. Responsabilizamos a los comandos de la policía, al ejército y al estado por cualquier incidente que pueda resultar en el acoso al Sr. Yumnam, su familia y organizaciones. Hacemos un llamamiento a todos los defensores de los derechos, a las redes y formaciones de propiedad intelectual para que exijan que se ponga fin a la criminalización de la disidencia y a todo intento de silenciar nuestras voces y destruir nuestra lucha unida por las tierras, los derechos y la justicia.



Traducción realizada con el traductor


Le Mouvement international des peuples autochtones pour l’autodétermination et la libération (IPMSDL) exige l’arrêt immédiat du harcèlement de Jiten Yumnam de Manipur, membre de l’IPMSDL, défenseur des droits humains et des peuples autochtones (IP), écologiste et journaliste, après que plusieurs commando de la police se sont présentés chez lui sans préavis le 13 août dernier, lui demandant où il se trouvait, prenant des photos de sa maison et lui demandant de faire face à un cas présumé en instance contre lui.

En octobre 2013, M. Yumnam a également été convoqué par la police de Manipur sans notification ni motif de convocation. En septembre 2009, en tant que membre du Comité des droits de l’homme, il a de nouveau été convoqué par la police, puis détenu, interrogé et lourdement torturé pour de fausses accusations. Les récents incidents d’intimidation par les commandos de police ont gravement menacé la sécurité, la tension et l’anxiété de M. Yumnam et de toute sa famille. Cela constitue également une menace et des attaques continues contre les défenseurs des droits humains à Manipur. Actuellement, selon le Comité des droits de l’homme, Imphal Manipur, plus de 1 528 cas d’exécutions extrajudiciaires à Manipur par l’armée et la police font toujours l’objet d’une enquête.

M. Yumnam, en tant que membre du Comité régional de coordination de l’IPMSDL pour l’Asie et le Pacifique, secrétaire du Center for Research and Advocacy (CRA), Manipur, et écrivain pour Imphal Free Press,, a été très actif dans l’éducation des gens sur les luttes des différentes communautés pour l’environnement, les terres ancestrales et les droits humains de la propriété intellectuelle à travers ses écrits et son travail de plaidoyer local et à l’étranger.

Au Guatemala, un dirigeant agricole autochtone a été forcé de se cacher après avoir appris qu’il avait une prime de 100 $ sur la tête et qu’il avait reçu des menaces de mort de la part d’anciens militaires et de membres de gangs soupçonnés d’être liés à des entreprises de grands projets d’infrastructure auxquels il s’est opposé. En Équateur, les dirigeants autochtones et les écologistes qui protestent contre la nouvelle loi minière et les explorations pétrolières en Amazonie sont victimes de “harcèlement judiciaire” pour les accusations, les arrestations et les affaires inventées de toutes pièces, qui durent depuis des années, mais qui n’ont pas de preuves suffisantes. Aux Philippines, plusieurs chefs de la propriété intellectuelle qui luttent activement contre le pillage des terres de propriété intellectuelle par les entreprises ont été inscrits par le ministère de la Justice du gouvernement sur une ” liste des terroristes ” prescrite par l’armée. Même le Rapporteur spécial des Nations Unies sur les droits des peuples autochtones a tiré la sonnette d’alarme sur le ” profil d’abus, le secteur privé étant souvent de connivence avec les gouvernements pour forcer les peuples autochtones à quitter leurs terres par tous les moyens nécessaires pour faire place aux infrastructures, à l’agriculture, aux mines et aux projets d’extraction “.

Partout, tandis que la lutte des peuples contre le pillage des ressources par les entreprises prend de plus en plus d’ampleur, les offensives de l’État contre la terre et les défenseurs des droits de l’homme s’intensifient. Nous appelons donc tout le monde à s’opposer à toute forme de harcèlement et d’attaques contre M. Yumnam et contre tous les défenseurs des droits de l’homme et de la propriété intellectuelle dans le monde entier. Nous tenons les commandos de la police, l’armée et l’État responsables de tout incident fâcheux pouvant entraîner le harcèlement de M. Yumnam, de sa famille et des organisations. Nous appelons tous les défenseurs des droits, les réseaux et les formations de propriété intellectuelle à exiger qu’il soit mis fin à la criminalisation de la dissidence et à rejeter toute tentative de faire taire nos voix et de détruire notre lutte commune pour les terres, les droits et la justice.



Traduit avec

On the killings of IP leaders in Mexico, Guatemala, Philippines and Brazil

Indigenous communities suffer another record murder tally amidst the International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples celebration. Known Indigenous Peoples (IP) rights activists – Rolando Crispin Lopez (Mexico), Juana Raymundo (Guatemala), Yandong Menyo (Philippines) and Jorginho Guajajara (Brazil) – fell prey to a murderous system operated by imperialist powers and its repressive agents which have great economic interests in ancestral lands of IP. The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) calls for an international condemnation against the growing trend of  harassments, criminalization, and  killings with impunity of Indigenous rights defenders and communities in defense of land, territory, and way of life.

Mexico’s spike in crime continues to threaten human rights activists. Last July 22, after finishing his duty as a community police, Crispin was gunned down by a suspected municipal police officer. This assasination was attributed to his record and reputation as a staunch IP rights defender in their community. Crispin was a member of the Assembly of Indigenous People of the Istmo in Defense of Land and Territory (Apiitdtt), the Peoples’ Assembly of the Juchiteco People (APPJ), and the Peoples’ Assembly of Alvaro Obregon in Juchitan, Oaxaca, Mexico. As a community police, a community-led initiative and self-defense measure against transnational companies (TNCs) and corrupt officials, he had suffered constant harassment and intimidation from entities which try to occupy the Santa Teresa territory of Indigenous Binniza community to develop the wind energy project.

Meanwhile in Guatemala,  Juana Raymundo was brutally killed at the night of July 28. Bearing signs of torture, Raymundo’s body was discovered near a river in Nebaj and Acambalam. Raymundo, an indigenous Mayan Ixil human rights activist, lived as nurse at a health center, a regional coordinator of Committee of Campesino Development (Codeca) and a local council of Movement for the Liberation of the Peoples. Her organization has been critical of the attacks by the government and elites to human rights and environmental activists, and protested against mining and hydroelectric projects destructive of Guatemalan natural resources.

In August 10, a Lumad Higaonon leader Yandong Menyo was gunned down by elements of 8th Infantry Battalion of Philippine Army in Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines. Yandong used to work with Pigyayonggaan, an Indigenous community organization that leads the campaign against monocrop plantations and extractive mining projects in Northern Mindanao. Higaonon communities have forcibly evacuated and camped in front of provincial capitol since June, demanding the pull-out of military encampment that protects the invasion of extractive and agribusiness companies.

Another IP rights activist fell victim to the wave of violence against Guajajara peoples of Amazon in Brazil last August 12, when the dead body of tribal leader Jorginho Guajajara was discovered near a river in Maranhao. Suspected powerful logging mafia has repeatedly targeted Jorginho and his tribe for their work as ‘Guardians of Amazon.’ The Guardians are internationally acclaimed local environmental team protecting the eastern edge of Amazon rainforest, expelling loggers and protecting uncontacted neighboring tribe of Awa. Since 2000, at least 80 tribe members have been killed by logging mafia with close ties to local and national politicians.

The world-wide offensive against IP leaders, rights defenders, and communities is an orchestrated oppression and systematic suppression of our struggle for self-determination and liberation against local and transnational companies that encroach and grab our lands and liberties under the banner of imperialist conquest. The inutile action of States and governments to give justice to its peoples reveal their subservience to imperialist powers even extending military, security, and legal support to attack its dissenting citizens and fast-track plunder of natural resources.

The intensified plunder on ancestral lands and heightened attacks against IP right defenders and communities demand that we continue to stand stronger and unified in defense of our rights, land, and self-determination. We enjoin everyone to hold accountable the culprits behind the gruesome killings of IP leaders as well as rights violations committed against our communities. We call on the international community, Indigenous communities, and IP rights advocates to join us in our call to stop the attacks and imperialist war against IP defenders and communities struggling to advance the right for self-determination!

Stop the Killings of Indigenous Peoples Leaders!

Resist Corporate Plunder And Greed!

Fight Imperialist War Of Agression!

Activism Not Terrorism!


Reference: Beverly Longid, Global Coordinator,

Traducción por DeepL

Las comunidades indígenas sufren otro récord de asesinatos en medio de la celebración del Día Internacional de los Pueblos Indígenas del Mundo. Los conocidos activistas de los derechos de los pueblos indígenas (PI) (Rolando Crispín López (México), Juana Raymundo (Guatemala), Yandong Menyo (Filipinas) y Jorginho Guajajara (Brasil)) fueron presa de un sistema asesino operado por las potencias imperialistas y sus agentes represivos que tienen grandes intereses económicos en las tierras ancestrales de los PI. El Movimiento Internacional de los Pueblos Indígenas por la Autodeterminación y la Liberación (IPMSDL, por sus siglas en inglés) hace un llamado a una condena internacional en contra de la creciente tendencia al hostigamiento, criminalización y asesinatos con impunidad de los defensores de los derechos y comunidades indígenas en defensa de la tierra, el territorio y la forma de vida.

El aumento de la delincuencia en México sigue amenazando a los activistas de derechos humanos. El pasado 22 de julio, después de terminar su servicio como policía comunitaria, Crispin fue asesinado a tiros por un presunto policía municipal. Este asesinato se atribuyó a su trayectoria y reputación como defensor incondicional de los derechos de P.I. en su comunidad. Crispin fue miembro de la Asamblea de Pueblos Indígenas del Istmo en Defensa de la Tierra y el Territorio (Apiitdtt), de la Asamblea de los Pueblos del Pueblo Juchiteco (APPJ) y de la Asamblea de los Pueblos de Álvaro Obregón en Juchitán, Oaxaca, México. En su calidad de policía comunitaria, iniciativa comunitaria y medida de autodefensa contra las empresas transnacionales (TNC) y los funcionarios corruptos, ha sufrido constantes hostigamientos e intimidaciones por parte de entidades que tratan de ocupar el territorio de Santa Teresa de la comunidad indígena de Binniza para desarrollar el proyecto de energía eólica.

Mientras tanto, en Guatemala, Juana Raymundo fue brutalmente asesinada en la noche del 28 de julio. Llevando señales de tortura, el cuerpo de Raymundo fue descubierto cerca de un río en Nebaj y Acambalam. Raymundo, un activista indígena maya de derechos humanos Ixil, vivía como enfermero en un centro de salud, coordinador regional del Comité de Desarrollo Campesino (Codeca) y un consejo local del Movimiento para la Liberación de los Pueblos. Su organización ha criticado los ataques del gobierno y las élites a activistas de derechos humanos y ambientales, y ha protestado contra los proyectos mineros e hidroeléctricos que destruyen los recursos naturales guatemaltecos.

El 10 de agosto, un líder de Lumad Higaonon, Yandong Menyo, fue asesinado a tiros por elementos del 8º Batallón de Infantería del Ejército Filipino en Bukidnon, Mindanao, Filipinas. Yandong solía trabajar con Pigyayonggaan, una organización comunitaria indígena que dirige la campaña contra las plantaciones de monocultivos y los proyectos mineros extractivos en el norte de Mindanao. Las comunidades de Higaonon se han evacuado por la fuerza y han acampado frente al capitolio provincial desde junio, exigiendo la retirada de los campamentos militares que protegen la invasión de las empresas extractivas y agroindustriales.

Otro activista de los derechos de propiedad intelectual fue víctima de la ola de violencia contra los pueblos guajajara de la Amazonia, en Brasil, el pasado 12 de agosto, cuando se descubrió el cadáver del dirigente tribal Jorginho Guajajara cerca de un río de Maranhao. Se sospecha que la poderosa mafia maderera ha atacado repetidamente a Jorginho y a su tribu por su trabajo como “Guardianes de la Amazonía”. Los Guardianes son un equipo ambiental local aclamado internacionalmente que protege el borde oriental de la selva amazónica, expulsando a los madereros y protegiendo a la tribu vecina no contactada de Awa. Desde el año 2000, al menos 80 miembros de la tribu han sido asesinados por la mafia maderera con estrechos vínculos con políticos locales y nacionales.

La ofensiva mundial contra los líderes de la PI, los defensores de los derechos y las comunidades es una opresión orquestada y una supresión sistemática de nuestra lucha por la autodeterminación y la liberación contra las empresas locales y transnacionales que invaden y se apoderan de nuestras tierras y libertades bajo la bandera de la conquista imperialista. La acción inútil de los Estados y gobiernos para hacer justicia a sus pueblos revela su sumisión a las potencias imperialistas, incluso extendiendo el apoyo militar, de seguridad y legal para atacar a sus ciudadanos disidentes y el saqueo acelerado de los recursos naturales.

La intensificación del saqueo de tierras ancestrales y el aumento de los ataques contra los defensores de los derechos de propiedad intelectual y las comunidades exigen que sigamos siendo más fuertes y unidos en la defensa de nuestros derechos, la tierra y la libre determinación. Instamos a todo el mundo a que exija responsabilidades a los culpables de los horrendos asesinatos de líderes de PI, así como de las violaciones de los derechos humanos cometidas contra nuestras comunidades. Hacemos un llamamiento a la comunidad internacional, a las comunidades indígenas y a los defensores de los derechos de propiedad intelectual para que se unan a nosotros en nuestro llamamiento para detener los ataques y la guerra imperialista contra los defensores de los derechos de propiedad intelectual y las comunidades que luchan por promover el derecho a la libre determinación.

Alto a los asesinatos de líderes de pueblos indígenas!

Resistir el saqueo corporativo y la codicia!

Lucha contra la guerra de agresión imperialista!

Activismo, no terrorismo!


Referencia: Beverly Longid, Coordinadora Global,


Traduction par DeepL

Les communautés autochtones souffrent d’un autre record de meurtres dans le cadre de la célébration de la Journée internationale des peuples autochtones. Les militants des droits des peuples autochtones connus – Rolando Crispin Lopez (Mexique), Juana Raymundo (Guatemala), Yandong Menyo (Philippines) et Jorginho Guajajara (Brésil) – ont été la proie d’un système meurtrier géré par les puissances impérialistes et ses agents répressifs qui ont de grands intérêts économiques dans les terres ancestrales de la propriété intellectuelle. Le Mouvement international des peuples autochtones pour l’autodétermination et la libération (IPMSDL) appelle à une condamnation internationale contre la tendance croissante du harcèlement, de la criminalisation et des assassinats en toute impunité des défenseurs des droits et des communautés autochtones pour la défense de la terre, du territoire et du mode de vie.

La recrudescence de la criminalité au Mexique continue de menacer les militants des droits humains. Le 22 juillet dernier, après avoir terminé son service de police communautaire, Crispin a été abattu par un policier municipal présumé. Cette assasination a été attribuée à ses antécédents et à sa réputation de défenseur acharné des droits de propriété intellectuelle dans leur communauté. Crispin était membre de l’Assemblée des peuples autochtones de l’Istmo in Defense of Land and Territory (Apiitdtt), de l’Assemblée du peuple de Juchiteco (APPJ) et de l’Assemblée du peuple d’Alvaro Obregon à Juchitan, Oaxaca, Mexique. En tant que police communautaire, initiative communautaire et mesure d’autodéfense contre les sociétés transnationales (TNC) et les fonctionnaires corrompus, il a été constamment harcelé et intimidé par des entités qui tentent d’occuper le territoire de Santa Teresa de la communauté indigène de Binniza pour développer le projet d’énergie éolienne.

Pendant ce temps, au Guatemala, Juana Raymundo a été brutalement tuée dans la nuit du 28 juillet. Signes de torture, le corps de Raymundo a été découvert près d’une rivière à Nebaj et Acambalam. Raymundo, un militant indigène maya Ixil, a vécu comme infirmière dans un centre de santé, coordinateur régional du Comité de développement paysan (Codeca) et d’un conseil local du Mouvement pour la libération des peuples. Son organisation a critiqué les attaques du gouvernement et des élites contre les militants des droits de l’homme et de l’environnement, et a protesté contre les projets miniers et hydroélectriques qui détruisent les ressources naturelles guatémaltèques.

Le 10 août, un chef Lumad Higaonon Yandong Menyo a été abattu par des éléments du 8e Bataillon d’infanterie de l’armée philippine à Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines. Yandong avait l’habitude de travailler avec Pigyayonggaan, une organisation communautaire indigène qui mène la campagne contre les plantations de monocultures et les projets d’extraction minière dans le nord de Mindanao. Les communautés Higaonon ont évacué et campé de force devant la capitale provinciale depuis juin, exigeant le retrait du campement militaire qui protège l’invasion des entreprises extractives et agroalimentaires.

Un autre militant des droits de propriété intellectuelle a été victime de la vague de violence contre les peuples guajajara d’Amazonie au Brésil le 12 août dernier, lorsque le corps du chef tribal Jorginho Guajajara a été découvert près d’une rivière à Maranhao. La puissante mafia forestière suspectée a ciblé à plusieurs reprises Jorginho et sa tribu pour leur travail en tant que’Gardiens de l’Amazonie’. Les Gardiens sont une équipe environnementale locale de renommée internationale qui protège la lisière est de la forêt amazonienne, expulsant les bûcherons et protégeant la tribu voisine d’Awa. Depuis 2000, au moins 80 membres de la tribu ont été tués par la mafia de l’exploitation forestière, qui a des liens étroits avec les politiciens locaux et nationaux.

L’offensive mondiale contre les dirigeants, les défenseurs des droits de propriété intellectuelle et les communautés est une oppression orchestrée et une suppression systématique de notre lutte pour l’autodétermination et la libération contre les entreprises locales et transnationales qui empiètent et s’emparent de nos terres et de nos libertés sous la bannière de la conquête impérialiste. L’action inutile des États et des gouvernements pour rendre justice à ses peuples révèle leur soumission aux puissances impérialistes, qui étendent même leur soutien militaire, sécuritaire et juridique pour attaquer leurs citoyens dissidents et piller rapidement les ressources naturelles.

L’intensification du pillage des terres ancestrales et l’intensification des attaques contre les défenseurs des droits de propriété intellectuelle et les communautés exigent que nous continuions à être plus forts et plus unis dans la défense de nos droits, de nos terres et de notre autodétermination. Nous exhortons tout le monde à demander des comptes aux coupables des assassinats horribles de dirigeants de la propriété intellectuelle ainsi que des violations des droits commises contre nos communautés. Nous appelons la communauté internationale, les communautés autochtones et les défenseurs des droits de propriété intellectuelle à se joindre à notre appel pour mettre fin aux attaques et à la guerre impérialiste contre les défenseurs de la propriété intellectuelle et les communautés qui luttent pour faire progresser le droit à l’autodétermination !

Arrêtez les meurtres des dirigeants des peuples autochtones !

Résistez au pillage d’entreprise et à la cupidité !

Combattre la guerre impérialiste d’agression !

L’activisme, pas le terrorisme !


Référence : Beverly Longid, Coordinatrice mondiale,

The Karen Struggle for Self-Determination in Kawthoolei

This article is a case study conducted and written by KESAN (Karen Environmental Social Action Network) contributed for #IDWIP2018.

Burma is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world, and while ethnic Burmans represent a majority in the central Irrawaddy river-plain, non-Burman ethnic groups inhabit about half of the country making up over one-third of the population, forming a relative majority in the great horseshoe of mountains which surround the central lowlands. Situated between modern-day Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand, the country’s ethno-linguistic diversity reflects the regions rich histories of migration. According to research carried out by linguists and anthropologists, the different ethnic sub-groups in Burma can are related to “four main families: the Tibeto-Burmese, Mon-Khmer, Shan (or Tai) and Karen.”[1]

Although the geographic origins of Karen are disputed, historians believe that the Karen people, with a number of sub-groups or tribes, migrated from Tibet and the upper reaches of Yangtze River in China nearly three thousand years ago. Today, the Karen represent one of the largest ethnic nationalities in Burma, their number ranging from 3 to 7 million[2]. Regardless of population size or migratory origins, non-Burman ethnic nationalities in modern day Burma share a common struggle against subjugation and oppression by the Burman dominated military-state complex.

Geographically, ethnic Karen-related people populate a wide area of modern day Burma, stretching from the southern Irrawaddy delta across Rangoon, Bago and Tanawthari (Tanintharyi) regions and the Karen, Karenni, Mon and Shan States, branching across the country’s borders into the mountain ranges of western Thailand. Karen ethnic-related groups include the “S’gaw Karen, Pwo Karen, Bwe Karen, Paku Karen, Mobwa Karen, Geba Karen and Karen Phyu”.[3] Although Karen-related people have distinct political identities and speak mutually unintelligible languages, “they are connected through customs, traditions, and a long history of shared communities, and thus a sense of unity in diversity.”[4] Commonly, inside Burma, the Karen ethno-nationalist group refers to the S’gaw and Pwo speaking Karens inhabiting areas of the Irrawaddy, Rangoon, Bago and Tanawthari regions and the Karen, Karenni and Mon states.

“Seven decades of civil war between Karen and Burmese forces has had a significant impact on Mutraw District’s communities and environment… the root causes of that conflict remain sorely unaddressed”

In February 1947, the Karen National Union (KNU) was founded as an umbrella group of four Karen social, political, and religious organizations with the aim of advancing the Karen national cause, with broad support across Karen-populated territories. This came shortly after Burma’s independence leader Aung San signed a deal with the British government that pledged to form an independent Burma “as soon as possible”[5], also succeeding in concluding an agreement for a unified Burma at the Panglong Conference on 12 February. However, this fragile amity was thrown into disarray following the tragic assassination of Aung San on July 19, 1947, and the rapid exit of the British. When Burma became independent on the 4th of January 1948, led by the country’s first independent government, the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League, many critical issues remained unresolved. While the independence government awarded the voluntary right to secession to the Shan and Karenni they refused to agree to Karen demands for equality and autonomy, promised by Aung San. On February 11, 1948, four hundred thousand Karen people staged silent demonstrations nationwide, with demands for a state, equality and freedom.[6]

In 1949, the Karen revolution began after failure of the Union Government and the Karen National Union to reach an agreement over the terms of a Karen State, known by the Karen people as Kawthoolei. Until now the Karen people continue the struggle for self-determination. This struggle, which continues until this day, represents the longest civil-war in Myanmar, and, by many accounts, the longest running civil war in the world.

In the seven decades since Burma wrested independence from British imperial rule, armed conflict, political upheaval and civil war has pushed the Karen struggle for self-determination into shrinking and fragmented spaces of resistance in the country’s southeast. In the last three decades alone, the Burma Army’s military campaigns and occupation have forced hundreds of thousands of Karen people from their ancestral territories, many fleeing for their lives across the country’s borders into Thailand.

State Violence and Local Resilience in Mutraw

Karen IDP communities demonstrate their opposition the large-dams on the Salween River, March 2017. Photo from KESAN.

In the early 1990s, the Burma Army began its most coordinated and widespread military campaigns in the east and southeast of the country. In Mutraw (Hpapun), the mountainous district of northeastern Karen State, troops of the Burma Army systematically and indiscriminately targeted civilian areas violently displacing eighty percent of the district’s original 107,000 inhabitants[7] with many fleeing to refugee camps along the Thai border, while others chose to live in hiding in the forests. Although the Burma Army scaled back the intensity of its offensives in Mutraw towards the end of 2008, more than 27,000 villagers remained displaced from their land and homes in 2010, where they remained “at constant risk of death or injury from periodic attacks, patrols and remote shelling.”[8]

Although the Karen people of Mutraw have not seen lasting-peace for over 60 years, Karen forces, namely the Karen National Liberation Army, have been “able to maintain these ‘northern areas’ as the most autonomous region under Karen control,”[9] a region that “has never been brought under centralized state rule.”[10] The protection of Mutraw is important not just for the political struggle of the Karen, but also for the biocultural survival of the indigenous Karen people who depend upon the conservation of the natural environment through which their customary land systems and traditional culture function.

Despite the ongoing presence of the Burma Army in Mutraw, the 2012 bilateral ceasefire and 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), signed between elements of the Karen National Liberation Army’s political, the Karen National Union and the Union Government, raised local people’s hopes of the prospect of return to their ancestral homelands and village territories on a permanent basis, and began meeting to discuss how they would begin rebuilding their communities. However, villagers continued to avoid any contact with the Burma Army and their network of military roads, which pose a serious threat to local people. For example, on 22 February 2015, Saw Maw Kay, a local community leader, was shot to death by Burma Army soldiers near the road in Ler Mu Plaw, northeastern Mutraw.

“…local communities have taken up the struggle to transform their indigenous territories into a space of peace, self-determination, environmental integrity and cultural survival. It is from this struggle that the Karen-led Salween Peace Park has emerged.”

Seven decades of civil war between Karen and Burmese forces has had a significant impact on Mutraw District’s communities and environment, and although ceasefires have led to a significant reduction in widespread armed conflict, the root causes of that conflict remain sorely unaddressed. In many areas of the country, such as Mutraw, ceasefires have acted as a double-edged sword, and while many communities have found opportunity to rebuild their livelihoods the pauses in fighting have also enabled the Burma Army to create more permanent military infrastructure, opening new spaces for the predatory and voracious exploitation of land and natural resources. The impacts of these exploitative forces have been overwhelmingly negative for local communities and for the natural environment, leading to new and renewed cycles of conflict and dispossession.

Mutraw District is rich in natural resources, host to valuable minerals, timber, and other forest products, alongside prized wildlife, making it a prime target for exploitation. Improperly regulated mining and logging have driven rapid deforestation, biodiversity loss, and the poisoning of water sources, causing significant damage to both the wildlife and communities living there.[11] Sources indicate that these activities are being both pursued and facilitated by the Burma Army, Karen armed groups, and Border Guard Forces (BGF) to finance themselves, alongside operations by Burmese and foreign companies and various wealthy individuals.[12] Large and small-scale infrastructure projects, including roads, and bridges, have also led to land confiscation and an escalation of conflict between Karen armed groups, the Burma Army, and various BGFs resulting in the displacement of thousands of Karen people.[13]

Large-scale hydropower dams proposed and under-construction on the Salween river and its tributaries represent one of the greatest threats to biocultural conservation in Mutraw. The Salween River, known as the Kho Lo Klo and Ta Maw Shu in S’gaw and Pwo Karen respectively, flows roughly north to south from the Himalayan Plateau through southwestern China – where it is known as the Nujiang. The Salween crosses into Burma’s Shan State coursing south through Karenni, Karen and Mon states before forming an estuary into the Andaman Sea. The vast majority of the proposed Salween dams are concentrated upstream from Mutraw and threaten a widespread, largely unacknowledged, human rights and environmental disaster for communities living in Burma’s Salween River basin. The Hatgyi project is proposed under a Joint Venture Agreement between the Union Government, Sinohydro/PowerChina and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand International, is located at Mutraw’s southern border with Hpa-an District (Hlaingbwe Township). This large-scale dam is designed to export about 90% of the electricity generated onto Thailand’s national grid, while the costs and risks of the project are pushed onto local communities, huge numbers of whom have been forcibly displaced by armed conflict and now face the spectre of permanent displacement from their ancestral territories, set to disappear beneath the dam’s reservoir.

The Salween Peace Park

While a nexus of actors including the Burma Army, international donors, financial institutions and domestic conglomerates seek to transform Mutraw into a space of extraction, local communities have taken up the struggle to transform their indigenous territories into a space of peace, self-determination, environmental integrity and cultural survival. It is from this struggle that the Karen-led Salween Peace Park has emerged.

Karen communities have proven that they have the tools, expertise and motivation to protect biocultural diversity in Mutraw District, and envision a place where they can continue their cultural practices in peace. Karen leaders and civil society believe that the establishment of a community-led Salween Peace Park would help communities achieve this vision.

The vision of the Salween Peace Park is to establish and indigenous run sanctuary for endangered species, rooted in the customary territories and traditional socio-ecological management practices of the Karen people of Mutraw. The de facto management and governance systems in Mutraw have been co-produced by the KNU and Indigenous communities. For example, the Kawthoolei Land Policy recognises and provides registration procedures for a range of broadly-defined land types, including Kaw or customary lands, community forests, reserved forests and wildlife sanctuaries.

The Kaw is the best illustration of the Karen relationship to nature in contemporary Mutraw District. A significant proportion of Mutraw District’s area comprises of Kaws, which vary in size and degree of preservation. The term Kaw can be viewed simultaneously as a management and governance system, a social framework, and a physical territory. A community’s Kaw territories are its ancestral and spiritual domain, comprising the lands, waters, and natural resources in said territory. Depending on size, some Kaws containing multiple villages, Kaw territories may comprise of a number of different land and forest use types serving various purposes. These can include lowland agricultural plots, Ku land (upland rotational agricultural plots), paddy fields, orchards, community forests, sacred areas, household plots, gardens, public lands (roads, schools, clinics, meeting halls etc.), pasture, and waters (lakes, rivers, ponds, etc.).[14]

Article 3.3 of the Kawthoolei Land Policy recognises and protects the rights of local communities to practice the Kaw system, and to manage and govern their land and natural resources within the Kaw according to the village community or group of communities’ communal stewardship and tenure arrangements.

Mutraw District, Kawthoolei. Photo from KESAN.

The practice of conservation through the establishment of community forest areas has also been officially recognised by the KNU, under the Kawthoolei Forest Policy. This objective of this policy is to officially recognise local village communities’ control and management of forest resources; to establish a process for local communities to manage, use, and benefit from forest resources and to conserve their tradition, culture, and improve their livelihoods; and, for local community to have a better understanding and recognize the importance as well as benefits of forests through direct participation in management and protection of forest resources.

These initiatives are grassroots efforts, led by the communities themselves. The KNU and civil society organisations, such as Karen Environmental Social and Environmental Network, have increasingly supported the efforts of local communities to conserve and strengthen their indigenous territories. As discussed, local communities, the KNU, and civil society organisations have been laying out the vision for the Salween Peace Park for many years. Yet, it was not until 2015, that local communities, civil society, and local authorities were able to come together to move the vision towards. Now, after 69 years of civil war, the Salween Peace Park has become a symbol of hope for the cultural survival of the Karen people and the political realisation of their struggle for self-determination. There are three main pillars or objectives which form the foundation of the Salween Peace Park: 1) Peace and self-determination, 2) Environmental integrity, and 3) Cultural survival.

“Land grabbing and extractive industries, including hydropower dams, are major drivers of armed conflict in Burma. More than 8,500 people have been forcibly displaced from their homes, land and property in Karen State as a direct result of armed conflict”

Indigenous Karen peoples’ governance and management rights over their ancestral territories date back many generations. However, before the 2012 ceasefire agreement, people were not concerned about officially demarcating boundaries or defining their land and natural resource management systems. Yet, following the 2012 ceasefire agreement, instances of land grabbing and natural resources exploitation accelerated, becoming more widespread. Rather than supporting the rights of local communities, Union Government legal frameworks related to land and natural resources, including the 2008 constitution, have led to increases in land confiscations, particularly in Union Government controlled and mixed administration areas. These pressures have led local communities, such as those in Mutraw, to define and demarcate their ancestral territories and land use systems in order to establish bottom-up protection mechanisms from predatory government and private business interests, and land and natural resource related legal frameworks.

Three Peace Park public consultations were held between 2016 and 2018, where the community laid out their visions “towards achieving ‘inclusive conservation’ and cultural preservation, while building peace through recognition of indigenous Karen people’s rights to self-determination over their ancestral territories in Mutraw District of Kawthoolei”[15] This community-led approach has led to the establishment of the Salween Peace Park Committee, who play a leading role in the drafting of the Salween Peace Park Charter, due to be ratified through popular vote. After the Salween Peace Park Charter has been ratified, the Peace Park Committee will guide its implementation according to the three main pillars; peace and self-determination, environmental integrity and cultural survival.

The Ravages of Conflict

Although these initiatives have all thus far had a notable impact on the communities involved, a significant barrier remains to promoting their expansion, and in some cases has even led to the cancellation of further proposed community-based initiatives. The key barrier is continued conflict and increased militarisation.

Land grabbing and extractive industries, including hydropower dams, are major drivers of armed conflict in Burma. More than 8,500 people have been forcibly displaced from their homes, land and property in Karen State as a direct result of armed conflict since the KNU signed the NCA in late 2015.

Map of Recent Conflict in Mutraw District and IDP Situation.

In September 2016, armed conflict broke out along the eastern access road leading to the Hatgyi dam site in Lu Pleh Township, Hpa-an District, as the Burma Army-led Borer Guard Force moved to assert military control over the dam site area. The fighting, which lasted for over two weeks, forced over 5,000 Karen villagers to flee their homes. Until today, these people have been unable to safely return to their villages, and the majority are now living as Internally Displaced Peoples in temporary shelters without access to humanitarian aid.

In March 2018, the Burma Army began the largest and most coordinated deployment of troops into Karen State’s Mutraw district since 2008.[16] More than 1,500 Burma Army troops crossed into KNU-controlled areas of Mutraw’s Luthaw township, breaching the terms of the 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and provoking multiple clashes with the Karen National Liberation Army’s 5th Brigade. Troops serving under the Burma Army’s Southern Command indiscriminately targeted civilians, forcing more than 2,400 villagers to flee their land and homes. The majority of those displaced by the Burma Army’s military operations had only recently returned to rebuild their villages, farms, and livelihoods following decades of widespread armed conflict.

Villagers demonstrate for peace in Ler Mu Plaw, Mutraw District, Kawthoolei. Photo by Brennan O’Connor.

In the evening of April 5, 2018, Saw O Moo was ambushed and shot by the Burmese Army after coordinating and arranging humanitarian assistance for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Ler Mu Plaw area of Mutraw District, Karen State. Saw O Moo was an indigenous Karen land rights defender, indigenous knowledge holder, and peace advocate who was also actively involved the Salween Peace Park, a local community initiative that strives for genuine peace, environmental conservation and cultural preservation.

Although KNLA authorities have confirmed Saw O Moo’s death, several attempts to retrieve the body have been unsuccessful, as Burma Army soldiers are shooting at anyone who approaches the area. As a result, Saw O Moo’s family has not been able to perform their Indigenous funeral rites.

The KNU and Burma Army are both signatories to the 2015 NCA, which prohibits the expansion of military infrastructure and troop reinforcements in ceasefire areas. However, beginning on March 4, 2018, at least eight Burma Army battalions[17] entered Luthaw, without prior agreement[18] from the KNLA, and begun constructing a military operations road to connect their military bases at Ler Mu Plaw and Kay Pu. If the road is built, Indigenous Karen villagers may be permanently displaced from their homes and ancestral village territories.

Building Peace and Self-determination from the Bottom-up

Indigenous Karen youth present their research in the Salween Peace Park. Photo from KESAN.

The Karen struggle for self-determination is inseparable from their historical struggle to defend their indigenous territory. The rights to Karen indigenous territories was passed on from the ancestors, according governance rights to the next generation. Managing these territorial rights appropriately is vital for the survival of Karen culture, the conservation of biodiversity, and the building of peace and self-determination from the bottom-up.

Seeking pathways to peace have become increasingly complex. The invasion and occupation of ethnic territories by the Burma Army has been followed by the expansion of Union Government administrative power which has come hand-in-hand with large-scale extractive industries, including large hydropower dams, agribusiness, and their associated infrastructure.

“Managing these territorial rights appropriately is vital for the survival of Karen culture, the conservation of biodiversity, and the building of peace and self-determination from the bottom-up”

The Salween Peace Park is becoming an indelible part of the Karen peoples historical struggle against oppression by the Burma Army and the Union Government of Myanmar. The Peace Park also defines the terms of peace in accordance with the vision of the people of Mutraw, who have stood together in defiance to demand something different for the future of their people.  Karen communities have for years built and governed wildlife protection areas, community forests, food security programmes, seed banks, and traditional medicine forests and gardens with the aim of strengthening livelihoods and conservation. These communities have also pioneered projects seeking to identify the biodiversity present in the region, and strategize on how best to protect it. The Salween Peace Park draws together this knowledge and expertise while sharpening the Karen vision for self-determination. Despite the recent conflict and the Burma Army’s refusal to withdraw its military camps from Mutraw, the indigenous Karen people of Mutraw have used the Salween Peace Park to define their own democratic space and raise awareness about their struggle for a different way forward, based on building peace and trust from the bottom up.


KESAN (Karen Environmental Social Action Network) is a community-based, non-governmental, non-profit organization that works to improve livelihood security and to gain respect for indigenous people’s knowledge and rights in Karen State of Burma, where the violence and inequities of more than 60 years of civil war have created one of the most impoverished regions in the world.



[1] Smith, Martin (1994) p.18

[2] Joliffe, Kim (2016) p.2

[3] Karen Information Center (KIC), “Karen Affairs Committee confirms names of seven official sub-tribes”, 5 May 2017. Accessible at:

[4] Joliffe, Kim (2016) p.2

[5] See Aung San-Attlee Agreement, January 27, 1947, available at: See also Government of Burma Act (1935).

[6] Tharckabaw, David (2015) Karen People’s Struggle for Equality and Freedom

[7] Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People (CIDKP) figure presented at “Symposium on the Salween Dams” June 27, 2003; estimated figure provided by KNU’s Mutraw District Administration; as cited in Karen Rivers Watch (KRW) (2004) Damming at Gunpoint, p. 1, p. 42

[8] Feeding figures provided by the Karen Office of Relief and Development (KORD) to KHRG. See KHRG report, Self-protection under strain (2010: 21)

[9] Joliffe, Kim (2016) “Ceasefire, Governance and Development” The Asia Foundation p. 34

[10] Joliffe, Kim (2016) p. 9

[11] Burma Environmental Working Group (2009) p.55; Karen Human Rights Group (2015) p.8

[12] Karen Human Rights Group (2015) p.8

[13] Karen Rivers Watch (2014) p.1; Karen Human Rights Group (2015) p.8

[14] KESAN (2017) The Salween Peace Park: A Scoping Study

[15] Karen News “International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples – Karen Community Groups Want Respect, Management Rights and Governance Over Ancestral Territories”, 12 August 2018, Accessible at:

[16] Karen Peace Support Network (2018) The Nightmare Returns: Karen hopes for peace and stability dashed by Burma Army’s actions, accessible at:

[17] A report from Free Burma Rangers (FBR) names the eight battalions as Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 20, LIB 351, LIB 435, LIB 598, LIB 558, LIB 432, LIB 596, LIB 560. See FBR report, They Are Running Again, This Time With Babies, 15 March 2018, accessible at:

[18] “Movement of armed troops in the areas controlled by the other is allowed only after obtaining prior agreement.” 2015 NCA, Article 8 (b)

Prayer of the Last Forest Guardians

Originally posted by WALHI Kalimantan Tengah on August 10, 2018.
Written by Ayu Kusuma.

Indigenous people have been living under the threat of losing the forests. However, just like a burning fire, the fighting spirit of these people never dies. The tradition on living up the traditional practices and rituals provides infinite source of strength and courage.

A Dayak Tomunt woman was filling the offerings inside anca during the ritual. Photo by Ramiasi Novita (Dayak Voices).

That Saturday afternoon, 7th of July, the village street at Kubung Village, Delang Sub-District, Lamandau Regency, Central Kalimantan Province, Indonesia, looked a little crowded than usual. Four elders wearing the traditional head-wrapped hat descended down from Rumah Betang (Dayak long house) while holding anca.

Anca is an offering place made from bamboo. It is divided into two parts, the pole and the container at the top. The bamboo used as anca have been specially chosen and cut down through a ritual on the day before. In that ritual led by Mantir Adat (traditional leader), they also cut bamboo for cooking lemang (glutinous rice) and nasi kuning (yellow rice).

Some groups of people followed Mantir Adat heading to different directions. Their destinations were Mencara River, Batu Batongkat Hill, village territory border, and Sandung (a place where bones of the ancestors were buried).

Even though there were four different locations for placing anca, Mencara River was the main location of the ritual. For on the bank of Mencara River, the first staked pole of Kubung Village was located. Despite covered in moss, the pole still stood firm. About 30 cm from the left side of the pole, anca bamboo was placed.

After anca was staked, the women filled anca’s basket-like container with offerings, such as grilled pig and chicken, grilled pig and chicken heads, lemang, and nasi kuning. The elders also staked a short bamboo which tip was burnt and emitting smoke on the ground below anca. A handful of white rice was spread before spiling tuak (traditional alcoholic drink) from a bamboo. After that, the people took turns to drink the remaining tuak.

The ritual process was carried out while the elders were enchanting prayers in Dayak Tomunt language. And the people would occasionally reply the prayers. This ritual was the climax of the entire traditional ritual named Babantan Laman held by Dayak Tomunt who live in Kubung Village. This Babantan Laman ritual was held for two days since Friday.

Babantan Laman is an annual traditional ritual to celebrate New Year by cleaning the village (laman) from any kind of negativities. Babantan Laman is also a form of gratitude towards Sangiang (The Deity), ancestors, and the mother earth for the good they have bestowed with. It also shows hope of grace, protection, security, and safety for the next year. It is however, not only meant for Kubung people alone, but for all people around the world. Prayers will be kept being enchanted during the entire ritual that requires the elders to fast from eating.

Any kinds of prayer asking for goodness and refusing badness are besought. Not to mention the one asking for unity of the people. Since Kubung community still live in a commune. They work together in taking their daily activities, and especially ritual practices. This harmony among the people does not only protect the people, but also the forest where they come from, grow, learn, and work.

Dayak Tomunt people in Kubung village have hereditarily been living by managing the products of forest resources. Many forms of activity are taken place in the forest, such as farming, honey, vegetables, traditional herbs/medicines and fruits gathering, rubber tapping, and of course ritual practices. The people’s dependency on the forest demands them to make sure that the forest will always be available. This eventually has designed the behaviors and traditions of the people in carrying out their lives according to the forest preservation practices.

The environmental-friendly way of living practiced by the people has caused the people not to act spoiled even though they live very close to the forest. Similar to other indigenous communities, they will only take what they need as much as they needed from the forest. It can be confirmed by looking at how beautiful the forest is without any significant disturbances. That is why the forest is also claimed as one of the last forests in Indonesia. Therefore, probably without anyone realizing, this indigenous community in Kubung Village has taken a huge role in maintaining a suitable life for all living creatures in this earth.

Although, being one of the last forests and a life support for the people does not make Kubung forest secured from the possibilities of being destructed. In the early 2015, a HTI (logging and industrial timber plantation) permit was given by the government of West Kalimantan Province on that indigenous peoples’ land. The area that was reached over 8000 hectares is administratively a part of West Kalimantan’s territory.

In mid-2015, the company was ready to begin working on that area. The entrance way to the operation location was already opened and heavy equipments were able to enter. Knowing there was a foreign activity in their managing area, the people immediately held a community meeting. Then, they collectively agreed to stop the company’s activity on their land. After successfully driving out the company’s workers from their land by coming together to the location and boldly asking the workers to leave, the people sealed the area.

But, the effort of these indigenous peoples from Kubung Village to ensure they can protect their land did not stop there. They also visited the company camp to meet the head of the operation. The people firmly stated that they reject any forms of activities on their land. Even though there was no one from the company who were willing to say they were responsible for the company’s activity on that land, up until now the company has never tried to start any activities on the indigenous peoples’ land in Kubung.

These steps taken by Dayak Tomunt peoples reflect people’s awareness and knowledge about their rights. These people realized they must defend the forest that supports their lives. They also understood very well that they must maintain the existence of protected and sustainable forest as a legacy to the next generations.

We cannot deny this key in building people’s awareness came from their knowledge on the importance of sustainable forest. And the traditional rituals that have been hereditarily carried out by the people also created unity among the people. The belief of the strength in the connection with Sangiang, ancestors, and the ancient warriors becomes the fundamental source of indigenous peoples’ power.

That fact is in accordance with what Mantir Adat of Dayak Tomunt, Tirbong, stating, “We get the answers of our prayers from the rituals. If we could not perform the rituals any longer, we would not only lose our traditions, but also our hopes.”

The challenges that Kubung community will face in the future, if not all indigenous peoples, are related to the government’s regulations, which have not yet showed support to the community’s activities in protecting the forest. Even so often, the regulations only provide benefits for the companies. It goes without saying that for indigenous peoples like the Kubung community, losing the forest means losing the life sources. Losing the life sources equals to death. Nothing will remain for the future of their children and grandchildren, not to mention the loss of their traditions rooted from the forest and their freedom.

It is probably not exaggerated to say that when we destroy a forest; we also destroy the whole community that depends on that forest. As the prayer chanted by the people in Kubung Village that afternoon, “We pray for our forest not to be disturbed, nor destroyed. For the forest is our mother.” A prayer that is full of hope and love for the sustainable earth.


The Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia/ Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) – Central Kalimantan is a forum of non-government and community-based organisations in Indonesia. It stands for social transformation, peoples sovereignty, and sustainability of life and livelihoods. WALHI works to defend Indonesia’s natural world and local communities from injustice carried out in the name of economic development.

Our Rivers, Our Lives: The Ayta of Pampanga and Tarlac and their Struggle against Quarries and Destructive Dams

Originally posted by TFIP on MARCH 14, 2018
written by Angelica Campo and photos by Myra Dela Cruz


In line with the commemoration of International Day of Action for Rivers on 14 March 2018, the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (TFIP) presents two emerging success stories of Ayta communities struggling to defend their rights in Pampanga and Tarlac.

Left with no choice

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” What Heraclitus said eons ago, holds true for Ilog Pasig in Sitio Pidpid, Barangay Sapang Uwak, Porac, Pampanga.

On 30 January 2018, the Magantsi and Magindi tribes of the Ayta indigenous peoples bravely put a stoppage on the operation of three companies namely Clarete Vibro Sand Processing Company, T.A.G. Mineral Resources Incorporated, and Powerzun Quarrying and Trading Incorporated (now known as SANDGLO). Ayta men and women have blocked the trucks that were taking away sand and stones from their ancestral domain. They eventually set up a barricade to ensure that no quarry personnel or equipment could get in and out of the premises while the operation is on hold.

The Ayta community was motivated by the deliberate disrespect of their collective rights as indigenous peoples and the growing number of water-related sickness among their children. They observed that due to massive excavation, the river got deeper, with less water flow, and is unsafe for them to drink. They have reported incidents of smelling diesel in the water they got from the existing springs. They believe that chemicals from the trucks and heavy equipment are being disposed indiscriminately on the surface and thus flow to the underground water systems.

“Honor and respect our right to ancestral land which is cited in the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) according to the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) 8371 Series of 1997.”

The Ayta leaders explained that the environment is an integral part of their history, culture, and identity. They take pride in being able to share their lands and natural resources with others but the companies went beyond the areas designated for quarrying. The water systems were rerouted and as a result, they are now having trouble producing crops on their upland farms and the usual drinking water is contaminated.

Paved paradise

Just recently, members of the Abelling tribe operating the excavation equipment in the Balog-Balog multi-purpose dam site staged a protest concerning their lack of job contract. Despite working for Guangzhi Contractor for eight months now, they do not receive mandatory government benefits like SSS, Pag-ibig, Philhealth. The project supervisor also deducts a P150 kickback from their meager salary. They complain of not being able to secure their post as the Chinese contractor is free to randomly fire employees anytime. This has come to the attention of indigenous peoples’ support groups and the local media. However, when CLTV36, together with peoples’ organizations and advocates, tried to do visit and conduct interviews, they were refused entry to the dam site.

After failed negotiations with the Chinese engineers who were onsite, project engineer Eduardo Corsiga explained that they need a copy of the request letter approved by the provincial and municipal unit. He confirmed that everything, from FPIC process, human resource management, construction of the dam and relocation site for affected residents, disaster risk management, capacity-building and livelihood trainings, and several other processes are under the supervision of National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

Discussions with affected non-IP community members revealed that the tenants who live and work in the supposed relocation site are being forced to leave without any relocation. There were problems with the actual payment of damages. The memorandum of agreement stated that the families would be given P300, 000 as reparation for the residential lot but none of them were ever paid in full at the time of the visit. There were also issues with how the farm lots are compensated. Most residents do not know that they are entitled to series of payment schemes depending on the size and classification of their lands, whether pastureland, irrigated, or upland farm. Some were even advised that they will only receive a fixed amount since they do not have land titles.

It was observed that the presence of the third mechanized brigade of the military had forced some IP community members to sign the documents granting NIA access to their ancestral domain. Despite the rejection by some Abelling families, they were persuaded to inhabit the houses that were admittedly unsafe, without water source, and have defective drainage system. After a week or so, they returned to their original dwellings.

The tribe members residing on the other side of the mountain fear that they would also be dislocated if the affected communities insist on living upland with them. There are no forests that they could go back to or share since a large portion of their ancestral land is already bulldozed. Together with tenant farmers, the Ayta of Tarlac are resisting the community displacement and the completion of the Balog-Balog mega dam project.

Even with the adoption of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and enactment of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA), indigenous peoples in the Philippines continuously experience historical discrimination, massive land grabbing, and food insecurity due to worsening climate change impact. IP communities are being constantly threatened with mining activities, energy projects, and construction of large infrastructures that do not directly benefit the people. This situation pushes the Ayta and other indigenous peoples to resist. Together, they stand with a call clear as their rivers: “These resources are ours. We should protect them.”


The Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (TFIP) is a network of non-governmental organizations in the Philippines advancing the cause of indigenous peoples (IPs) rights. TFIP envisions a society that promotes and defends indigenous peoples’ rights and upholds their self-determined development.

Chico Once More: Legacy of Resistance in Cordillera Highlands

The Rice Terraces of Banaue, Ifugao in North Philippines. Photo by Jiten Yumnam.

“When you run, gold will gather in your feet”

Traversing along the rugged, pothole filled, steep and slippery mountainous roads towards Camandag Barangay in Ifugao in mid July 2018 revealed mesmerizing landscapes of the Cordillera in North Philippines, fringed by lush forest greeneries, mystic bluish mountains and lofty clouds. The mountainous landscape and biodiversity in akin with terrains of Manipur in India’s North East. The Cordillera with 1.7 million people is blessed with opulent biodiversity and natural resources. Tribes like Bontoc, Kankanaeys collectively known as Igorot people, were able to maintain their distinctive cultures despite Spanish colonization, due to their affinity with land. “When you run in the Cordilleras, gold dust gather in your feet”, an Igorot elder exclaimed, during an interaction in Camandag village, signifying the abundance of the land. Indeed, most of gold and copper in the Philippines is extracted from the region.

“Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China”

The Cordillera region for long has been exposed to the neoliberal policies of the Philippines, leading to intrusion of multinational companies and increased financing from international financial institutions (IFIs) like Asian Development Bank, World Bank and countries like Japan and China, targeting its land and resources. Of late, the overwhelming financing from China in the Philippines including in the Cordilleras impelled considerable debate. Indeed, the Philippines government signed three loan agreements on economic and infrastructure cooperation with China during the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in November 2017. The loan agreements cover the $234.92-million New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam project and the $72.49 million for the Chico River irrigation project over Chico River in Cordillera. On 12 July, 2018, banners welcoming visitors to the Philippines as a “Province of China” were seen hanging on footbridges in Metro Manila on the second anniversary of The Hague’s ruling on 12 July 2016 invalidating China’s claim to South China Sea. The incident exposed how Philippines is being increasingly influenced economically and militarily by China and become subservient to the domination of neoliberal forces for its economic and political survival.

“Build, Build, Build”

The Philippines including the Cordillera region is subjected to massive infrastructure projects as Government reinforces it neoliberal development processes. The Philippine and Chinese Governments have signed the Peso 3.135 billion loan agreement for the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project, the first flagship infrastructure project to be financed by China under the “Build, Build, Build” program. The National Irrigation Administration and China CAMC Engineering Co. Ltd. announced the signing of the P4.37 billion Chico River Pump Irrigation Project in March 2018. The World Bank initially planned to find the project, but abandoned due to massive protest by Igorot people, who revered the Chico River, as “river of life” The project will displace at least 100,000 people and submerge their land.

The “Build, Build, Build” vision of the Philippines Government led to aggressive push for infrastructure projects, extractive industries, hydro power and other energy projects, targeting of indigenous peoples’ land and resources. Cordillera possesses 25% of watershed areas of the Philippines and new hydel projects are extensively planned over almost all Rivers in Ifugao, Kalinga and other provinces. The Philippines’ Renewable Energy Act of 2008, the first comprehensive legislation on renewable energy in Southeast Asia, likewise aims to increase the country’s power generation from renewable energy by three times, approximately 16,200 MW by 2030 . At least nine dams are planned over the Chico River and several of its tributaries in Kalinga. The Department of Energy (DOE) has been fast tracking approval of renewable energies, primarily hydel projects. In Camandag village, villagers’ rejected the plan for hydel project in their village, fearing it will submerge their land, forest and livelihood sources.

Developer SN Aboitiz Power-Ifugao is preparing to construct the 390 MW Alimit hydropower project in Cordillera. The SNAP Group, a joint venture of Norway’s SN Power and Aboitiz Power Corp., applied with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in March 2014 to complete the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) process stipulated under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA), 1997. The Aguinaldo, Lagawe, Lamut and Mayoyao communities will be affected by the dam . The DoE is also planning to construct the 11 MW Tinoc II Mini Hydroelectric Power Plant project at the Tinoc River in Ifugao with the Quad River Energy Corporation, a joint venture of AC Energy Holdings Inc. and Sta. Clara Power Corporation as project proponent. In Kalinga, the DoE has approved the Renewable Energy Service Contracts (RESCs) of 15-megawatt Upper Tabuk Hydro Power Project in Sitio Saranggani of Barangay Dupag proposed over the Tanudan River. The Kalinga Hydropower, Inc. (KHI), which is the project proponent of Tanudan dam misinformed affected communities and undermined their traditional decision-making processes while also causing social division.

Geothermal Energy development is another focus of the corporate bodies and the Government of Philippines to exploit the hot springs in Cordillera. In 2010, US based Chevron entered into a joint venture with APC Group Inc., a subsidiary of SM Group, and Guidance Management Corp., to explore, develop and operate the Kalinga geothermal prospect covering 25,682 hectares. APC, that invested $300 million to set up a 100 MW geothermal plant, targets to generate 300 MW in the long run . In Kalinga, Chevron is failed to take consent of Dananao and Uma tribes. The two others, one to be put up in Mainit, Mountain Province and in Daclan, Bokod in Benguet cover approximately 76,000 hectares. In Chevron’s Kalinga project, the NCIP ignored community objections to the project, while causing social divisions and conflict. Air and chemical pollution, drying of hot springs and geysers in the surrounding area, toxic waste water entering clean aquifers due to lowering of water table, violent explosions, accidents killing workers are others concerns with such plants. Terrible noise is caused by geothermal plants during drilling and operation, often reaching above the pain threshold of 120 decibels.

Mining of minerals has long been a controversy in Cordillera with affected communities resisting mining operations. Mining companies, including Philex Mining Corp, Lepanto Mines, Benguet Corporation mined copper, silver and gold in several provinces of Cordillera. Policies on mining and other extractives, plantations, and other exploitation of land and natural resources continue to trample indigenous peoples’ rights and encroaching upon their ancestral domains. Mining destroys and contaminate indigenous peoples land and territories. Militarization and human rights violations goes along with operation of mining, setting up geothermal energy plants and in constructing dams in CAR.

There is clear cut violation of Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, 1995 in pursuit of such aggressive development. The non-recognition and violation of Indigenous peoples’ collective rights to their ancestral domain is perpetrated through regalia doctrine, forestry code, Philippines Mining Act etc. The non-recognition of IPs socio political system, manipulation of FPIC under IPRA law, institutionalized discrimination through religious, media and educational institutions also facilitated violation of IP rights.

The aggressive nature, the massive infrastructure focus, the involvement of multinational companies, the financing by IFIs in the Cordillera and militarization is much similar to the intense push for oil exploration, mining, plans to build multiple dams all over the Rivers of Manipur. The Barak River and Manipur River system are now subjected to plans to build around fifteen dams, including the 1500 MW Tipaimukh dam, the 190 MW Pabram Dam, the 66 MW Loktak Downstream Project, the 50 MW Irang dam etc. The Jubilant Energy Private Ltd, the Oil India Limited is conducting forceful surveys to drill oil and gas. Massive infrastructure projects like Trans Asian Railway and Roads are also pursued, to facilitate dam building, mining, oil exploration etc in Manipur as part of India’s Act East Policy.


The Igorot people of Cordilleras practiced such sustainable farming with superb land, forest & water management with their traditional practices for millennia. Photo by Jiten Yumnam.

“Full Blooded Ifugao”

The aggressive development push in Cordillera involves extensive scale of violation of indigenous peoples’ rights over their land and primarily their right to free, prior and informed consent. Villagers of Huhlukan Barangay in Ifugao complaint the real FPIC process prescribed by NCIP was not followed for proposed hydel projects as information was denied to them by Santa Clara Company for the dam proposed in Tinoc. Villagers are rather misinformed that villagers will have roads, electricity, and employment with the dam construction.

The Field Based Investigation conducted by NCIP for FPIC for dam building in Huhlukan, Binablayan led controversy and violence. Based on notification by DoE, NCIP conducted field based investigation (FBI), targeting only selected villagers of community supporting the project. In Huhlukan village, the FBI is referred to as “Full Blooded Ifugao”, indicating the threats, violence, bloodshed, associated with dam building and the FPIC process, which also involves the murder of Ricardo Mayumi for rejecting the dam and the manipulative FPIC process. Already blood have spilled in the Ifugao during the field based investigation and FPIC process for building a hydel project.

“Flatten the Hills”

Indigenous peoples’ effort for defense of their land, lives and future is often perceived as anti-development and leveled as terrorists, and often responded militarily with direct attacks. Direct military operations, such as Oplan Bayanihan, Oplan Bantay Laya, with the tacit military support of US, have led to series of human rights violations on communities in various parts of Cordillera, in Ifugao, Kalinga and Abra provinces. Military atrocities and violations have been reported in Abra and in Nalapunan, where the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) bombed civilian areas. Forest areas of Gubang and Malacato communities in Bangillo were set on fire due to bombing.

The direction of the president of Philippines in early 2017 to “flatten the hills with bombs”, have led to intensification of aerial bombing in Mindanao and in Cordillera highlands, with severe repercussions, viz, displacement, killings, destruction of environment within indigenous communities . Militarization is an entrenched reality among indigenous communities employed by the Government to counter the liberation movement of New People’s Army and to support corporate bodies to exploit the land and natural resources, like dam building in Camandag village and Halludan village in Ifugao province, gold mining, and geothermal plants in Kalinga. During military clash between the armed forces and liberation groups, civilians are harassed and villagers could not also go to their farms. Military occupation in schools is widespread and youths are subjected to search, verifications and other harassment. Soldiers also indulged in rape and sexual abuse of indigenous women. AFP personnel also forced villagers to sign papers to desist hosting NPA. The AFP officials also indulged in violations of customary laws such as forcing villagers to sell liquor in villages where liquor is prohibited. There are reports of military interference in resolving inter-tribal conflict in Kalinga province.

Similarly in Manipur, the promulgation of the infamous Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 not only derogated the fundamental right, “right to life”, but also conferred immunity to the Indian armed forces operating in Manipur to subdue indigenous self-determination but also to facilitate the plunder of land through dam building, mining, oil exploration, road and railways building with IFI financing. The pattern of perpetuation of extreme forms of violence and persisting culture of impunity is much similar.

The enchanting land & the rivers of Cordillera in North Philippines. Photo by Jiten Yumnam.

Gray-May, June-Gloom, No Sky-July

Indigenous leaders and organizations are subjected to harassment, surveillance and attacks by Philippines National Police (PNP) and AFP for defending peoples’ rights over their land. Officials of Ifugao Peoples Movement (IPM) and CPA Ifugao chapter are threatened with trumped up charges, surveillances and death threats using social media. In 2015, ten members of the IPM, including Mayumi, have received death threats using the picture of ‘Gamong’, the Ifugao fabric used for the dead with words inscribed, “Gray-May, June-Gloom, No Sky-July”. On 2 March 2018, Ricardo Mayumi, an IPM member in Tinoc, Ifugao, who also received the ‘Gamong’, was murdered in Kiangan town . Mayumi opposed the Quad River mini hydro projects in Tinoc town in Ifugao. William Bugatti was earlier gunned down after attending a court hearing on 25 March 2014. The filing of trumped up charges against seven indigenous leaders of Cordillera in early 2018, among the list of 600 activists across the Philippines, led to international condemnations. Five women were also arbitrarily arrested in July 2017.

The prevalence of culture of impunity, systematic denial of justice for human rights Violations by PNP and AFP, such as in the case of William Bugatti, is widespread. There is lack or insufficient investigation by law enforcing agencies and concerns abound this lack of investigation is on account of their involvement in these violations. Community leaders who challenged AFP and PNP in judicial processes are subjected to extra judicial execution like Ricardo Mayumi. Investigations often failed to identify and charge perpetrators. Villagers fear filing complaints for fear of reprisal. Even the investigation by Commission on Human Rights (CHR) failed to identify and prosecute perpetrators.

The NCIP and CHR etc are ineffective to address peoples’ rights. Villagers complained the NCIP’s role is more to help corporate bodies with their business, instead of supporting communities’ rights. Lawyers deputed by NCIP even denounced indigenous peoples’ rights over their land during consultations on proposed dam in Tinoc. During aerial bombing by AFP in Abra and human rights violations, the CHR only issued advisory to the warring parties, instead of efforts to stop the violations, The administrative functioning in Cordillera closely resemble a military state, with the military dictating the civilian affairs and silencing voices of dissent and call for democratic spaces, for indigenous peoples rights and justice.

Farming in Binablayan, Ifugao, Cordillera in the Philippines. Photo by Jiten Yumnam.

“This is our land, we lived here, we will die here”

Sustained people’s resistance has prevented dam building companies and mining companies from pursuing their operations and expansion in the Cordillera. The combined legal and political actions of the Bakun communities have delayed Royalco’s exploration for the Gambang Copper-Gold Project. In Benguet province, sustained community barricades have prevented Lepanto and the South African mining company Goldfields from conducting exploration drilling for the Far Southeast Gold Project. In Kalinga province, the Silages tribe opposed mining plan of Lepanto. Kalinga communities affected by hydropower projects registered their opposition to these projects, including the Karayan Dam project. The Naneng, Dallak, and Minanga tribes in their letter to NCIP in the region rejecting the project stated, “… this land is our source of our living and also where we buried our ancestors. …we are afraid that rebellion will arise and blood will be shed” . The effort to build dams is despite the presence of 200 MW Ambuklao, the 1,000 MW San Roque Dam etc. The Cordillera remains one of poorest in the Philippines despite its rich mineral resources and subsequent exploitation by the multinational companies. One has to ride on motor bikes on rugged, narrow and steep road revealing the hardship endured by villagers to avail education, health facilities and to market their agriculture produces.

The serene landscape conceals the manifestation of persisting unresolved armed conflict situation within which indigenous peoples are forced to endure for generations in Cordillera. The people however are much adamant about their rights, land, cultures, traditional and survival of their coming generations. Land is life, land is the livelihood source and they have nurtured with their sweat and blood for generations. Allowing corporations to plunder their land will affect their identity, impoverish them and destroy their future. An elder from Camandag Barangay said, “This is our land, we lived here, we will die here”, highlighting the anger and the spirit of his people to resist all forceful, destructive development process. Another elder from Binablayan said, “Younger generations need to appreciate the importance and value of land and natural resources and strive to protect it for coming generations”.

“Chico once More”

An obvious reality within indigenous peoples land is change, rooted in deepening of State’s oppressive nature, the onslaught and savagery of neoliberal forces, destroying peoples’ land, lives and their future. Across Ifugao, one could perceive realities of how the land, forest, rivers, resources and peoples’ lives are subjected to aggressive efforts for economic and political domination by State and neoliberal forces, relegating communities inhabiting the land for generations to extreme forms of oppression and violence.

However, the aggressive push for unsustainable development and deepening of the involvement of neoliberal forces, such as massive plan for hydropower generation, geothermal plants, mining with tacit support of the Philippines States and its machineries posed enormous challenge for the people of Cordillera to defend their land. The aggressive development onslaught have provoked the Indigenous peoples to recall the struggles and sacrifices of leaders in 1980s and to drew inspiration, build unity and solidarity within communities. The indigenous peoples of Kalinga and Mountain Province successfully opposed the US$ 50 million World Bank-funded Chico River Irrigation Project, also known as the Chico Dams Project, from 1976-1985. The martyrdom of Mcling Dulag in the resistance had long been a source of inspiration to resist imperialist forces and to assert their self-determination over their land.

The unfolding adverse reality is a big challenge for the present generation and leaders in Cordillera. Indigenous peoples assert that the recognition of their right to self-determination, to their ancestral lands, territories and resources, and to free, prior and informed consent, as per provisions of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007 will foster meaningful and genuine sustainable development in Cordillera. Forging and deepening solidarity among indigenous peoples is perilous to combat state oppression, offensive and militarism of imperialist forces and in asserting their self-determination and liberation. One recalls the sacrifices of Mcling Dulag while listening to deeds, spirits and efforts of Ricardo Mayumi, during the tribute in his village at Huhlukan, Binablayan. Indeed, community leaders commenced sacrificing themselves. “Chico Once More’, is already the slogan among community leaders, reflecting the resolve to continue the legacy of resistance and struggle of their leaders for their land and rights. Leaders like Mayumi already followed the footsteps of their elders, showing the light to others, with his indomitable spirits, relentless struggles and sacrifices. The legacy of resistance and the sacrifices of leaders, appreciating the sanctity of the land will continue to inspire and guide in all moments of struggles for self-determination and liberation in the Cordillera highlands and far beyond.



Story written by Jiten Yumnam of the Centre for Research and Advocacy – Manipur and International IPMSDL. This article is originally posted in Imphal Free Press.