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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
Name of conflict:Long Teran Kanan communities against palm oil expansion, Sarawak, Malaysia
State or province:Sarawak
Location of conflict:Tinjar 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:Deforestation
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Palm oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details

IOI-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.

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Project area:9,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:8000 - 9000
Start of the conflict:1996
Company names or state enterprises:Land 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 actors:Forest Department
Land and Survey Department
Malaysian Court
High Court in Miri
Government of the State of Sarawak
International and Finance InstitutionsRoundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) (RSPO)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:SADIA – indigenous organization
Forest Peoples Programme
Borneo Resources Institute of Malaysia
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Development 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-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Institutional changes
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Negotiated alternative solution
Under negotiation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:A draft of the agreement has been written but not formalised.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Native Customary Rights

Land Code

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[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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Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

“Long Teran Kanan folk in Tinjar protest against dismissal of appeal to Federal Court” The Star (30/07/2013)
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“IOI Corp’s palm oil not green or sustainable” Malaysiakini (27/05/2011)
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“No Resolution Without Justice” Sarawak Report (04/08/2013)
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“Forest people disillusioned in battle to protect land” Thomson Reuters Foundation (26/11/2013)
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RSPO case tracker. IOI-Pelita
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Indigenous community takes court ruling into own hands and seizes oil palm plantation. 31 March 2011 / 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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Meta information
Contributor:Clàudia Custodio
Last update22/02/2017
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