Long Teran Kanan communities against palm oil expansion, Sarawak, Malaysia

After 20 years of struggle, indigenous communities in Tinjar have not yet reached justice against the palm oil company IOI Pelita.


Despite the existence of a Native Customary Rights (NCR) of local communities which are recognized in the Constitution, successive governments in Sarawak have continuously limited their applicability. In 1958 a Land Code was approved after which any new native customary right needed a permit to be issued. Since 1981 the Land Code has been continuously modified to enable the promotion of large-scale plantation development. Yet, the increased restrictiveness of the Administration towards the NCR has been contested. The indigenous Dayak and other communities have protested and gone to court many times. The Malaysian court has again and again ruled in favour of the indigenous communities, demanding respect for the NCR of the Long Teran Kanan community.

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Basic Data
NameLong Teran Kanan communities against palm oil expansion, Sarawak, Malaysia
SiteTinjar River
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Specific CommoditiesPalm oil
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsIOI-Pelita plantation is located in an intermediate region of undulating and broken hill country, which used to be covered with dipterocarp forest. The region is crossed by the Tinjar River, an afluent of the Baram River.

Sarawak population is ethnically diverse, and, in the present conflict, 3 different groups are affected: the Kayan, the Kerah and the Berawan. Minor land disputes between the different groups have also taken place.

By 2012, IOI Pelita Plantations claimed to own an area of 9,040 ha in Sarawak, of which 4,269 were planted, barely enough to supply a single medium-sized mill. They own around 160,000 ha of plantations in Malaysia and 14 mills, and 83,000 ha and 3 mills in Indonesia.
Project Area (in hectares)9,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population8000 - 9000
Start Date1996
Company Names or State EnterprisesLand Custody Development Authority (Pelita) (LCDA) from Malaysia
Rinwood Sdn from Malaysia - Joint venture with LCDA until 1996
IOI Corporation Berhad from Malaysia - Adquired shares of Pelita in 2006
IOI Pelita Plantations from Malaysia
Relevant government actorsForest Department

Land and Survey Department

Malaysian Court

High Court in Miri

Government of the State of Sarawak http://www.sarawak.gov.my
International and Financial InstitutionsRoundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) (RSPO)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersSADIA – indigenous organization

Forest Peoples Programme http://www.forestpeoples.org

Greenpeace http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/

Borneo Resources Institute of Malaysia http://www.brimas.www1.50megs.com
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of alternative proposals
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Refusal of compensation
Occupation of oil palm plantation by indigenous community, after court ruling
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Global warming, Soil erosion
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Institutional changes
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Negotiated alternative solution
Under negotiation
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.A draft of the agreement has been written but not formalised.
Sources and Materials

Native Customary Rights

Land Code


[1] Colchester et al., 2013. "Sarawak: IOI-Pelita and the community of Long Teran Kanan". In: Conflict or consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads. Ch9
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RSPO case tracker. IOI-Pelita
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“Long Teran Kanan folk in Tinjar protest against dismissal of appeal to Federal Court” The Star (30/07/2013)
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“No Resolution Without Justice” Sarawak Report (04/08/2013)
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“IOI Corp’s palm oil not green or sustainable” Malaysiakini (27/05/2011)
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“Forest people disillusioned in battle to protect land” Thomson Reuters Foundation (26/11/2013)
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Media Links

Indigenous community takes court ruling into own hands and seizes oil palm plantation. 31 March 2011 / Mongabay.com. A community in Malaysian Borneo seized an oil palm plantation belonging to the IOI Group after the palm oil giant failed to respect the terms of a court ruling that the plantation was established on native customary land, reports the Rainforest Action Network (RAN)
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Other Documents

Local people protesting close to a palm oil plantation in Baram
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Meta Information
ContributorClàudia Custodio
Last update22/02/2017