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statements May 17, 2012
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11th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
May 7-18,  2012
UN Headquarters, New York

United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Eleventh Session
United Nations Headquarters, New York
May 7-18, 2012
Intervention on AGENDA ITEM 4: Human Rights

By Mr. Windel Bolinget on behalf of the ASIA INDIGENOUS PEOPLES CAUCUS

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity for the Asia Indigenous Peoples Caucus to speak and submit our contribution on this very important and urgent agenda item on human rights.  This intervention is addressed to Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, Mr. James Anaya, and members of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Despite the General Assembly’s adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and several international human rights instruments,  the human rights situation of indigenous peoples in Asia remains deplorable.  Our collective rights continue to be systematically and grossly violated, especially with regards to our traditional lands, territories, and resources; the right of self determination, and the principle of free, prior, informed consent in decisions that impact them. Some Asian countries like the Philippines and Cambodia have a national legal framework on indigenous peoples, but human rights violations in indigenous communities continue unabated.  Many other Asian countries have no legal protection at all for indigenous peoples, and in some states indigenous peoples are outrightly ruled by militarist regimes.

I would like to focus on the urgent problem of militarization and its human rights impacts on indigenous peoples in Asia, particularly in the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, and West Papua. 

Militarization is a state policy of deploying armed forces and military bases in indigenous territories, setting-up of military detachments inside or near the communities, imposing checkpoints and curfews with restrictions on community activities with the general effect of creating an environment of terror, massive and intense military operations including indiscriminate bombings and firing, recruitment of paramilitary forces among indigenous peoples, and many other forms of military terror.   Militarization in itself is a basic human rights violation that has resulted in many serious human rights cases such as torture, illegal arrest and detention, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, military rape of indigenous women including minors, abandonment of impregnated women by military elements, indiscriminate firing and bombings, burning of houses and indigenous forests and destruction of community properties and resources, forcible evacuations and military displacements of indigenous communities,with ethnocidal impacts on indigenous communities.

Militarization is employed to secure state and corporate interests, and to suppress community resistance against ‘development’ aggression and corporate plunder like mining and extractive industries, hydro dams, energy projects, plantations, and other big businesses.  Both states  and corporations must be held accountable for the  serious human rights violations they commit.

In the Philippines, militarization of indigenous communities is also a result of the State’s counter-insurgency strategy, from Oplan (Operation Plan) Bantay Laya of the former Arroyo government to the Oplan Bayanihan of the current Aquino government.  This counter-insurgency strategy does not differentiate civilians from combatants such that legal and legitimate indigenous organizations are open targets resulting in violation of international humanitarian law governing the conduct of armed conflicts. Likewise, legal and legitimate indigenous organizations are vilified leading to physical attacks.

In India, despite the Ceasefires the Government of India has entered into with various Armed resistance groups, there is continued unrest with the military launching its own operations. For instance, the Chairman and the General Secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) who are also the President and the Prime Minister of Nagalim in their own rights were not permitted to visit their hometown in January 2012, with the Indian military cordoning off their designated Camp Hebron in Nagaland, and laid siege to all entry and exit roads from camp Hebron. This happened in the midst of  an ongoing political negotiations that have entered into its 15th year.

In Bangladesh, the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord stipulates to demilitarize the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region. Instead of implementing the CHT Accord, de facto military rule named “Operation Dabanal” (Operation Wild-fire) was imposed in the CHT during the period of insurgency and replaced with “Operation Uttoran (Operation Upliftment) in 2001. Military interference with and dominance over the civil administration, law and order, construction and repairing of roads, tribal affairs, forest resources etc. are still continuing on one hand, and on the other, they continue to actively support the outsider Bengali settlers in expanding and establishing newer cluster villages in the CHT.

In Cambodia, the militarization of Indigenous Peoples’ lands and territories involves a corrosive collaboration between the Royal Armed Forces of Cambodia and the private security forces of corporations that leads to groups of armed police whose identities and directors are hidden from plain view.  When these mystery police show up with guns to stop Indigenous peoples from advocating for their land rights, it is often impossible to determine who the police work for.  There is much evidence that there is no longer a clear line separating private security forces from the public security forces of the state.  The state forces work for the corporations.

The Karen people in Thailand are forcibly evicted by national park authorities and military forces from their traditional territories.

In West Papua, the third Congress of West Papuans in October 2011 was forcibly dispersed by the Government of Indonesia through military and police operations. As a result, 3 people died, dozens were injured and 6 people as suspects, and more than 300 people were arrested, tortured, and beaten. This incident is a portrait of human rights violation against freedom of expression and assembly as guaranteed by the Indonesian Constitution and Act on Human Rights and international human rights laws ratified by Indonesia.

The deployment of foreign troops and construction of foreign military bases also poses serious threats to the indigenous peoples of the region. For example, in Ryukyu/Okinawa, Japan, there is a huge concentration of US military bases and Japan's Self-Defence Forces. The Ryukyu/Okinawa consists only 6 % of the total territory of Japan, but 74% of US military bases in Japan is located in this small island. The presence of military bases causes environmental destruction, noise pollution, rape and killings by the army. Moreover, new military bases are being constructed in Henoko/Oura bay and Takae, threatening the ecosystem of one of the most biodiversity rich areas with endangered species. Militarisation of the Ryukyu/Okinawa by the State forces and US troops deprives Ryukyu people of their traditional lands and resources.  It leads to the destruction of their ecosystem, rich biodiversity, indigenous languages, culture, and traditional knowledge.

With the foregoing, we forward our recommendations to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and to the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Professor James Anaya:

  1. To call on Asian states to demilitarize indigenous territories and to take appropriate steps to review and reverse their counter-insurgency policies and strategies that are detrimental to indigenous peoples and violative of international humanitarian law.  Likewise, call on Asian states for the review of their oppressive and militarist laws and policies to be consistent with UNDRIP and seriously implement their international human rights obligations.  Push for State recognition of indigenous peoples to ensure full protection of their human rights, especially in Asian countries, like Thailand, who have no legal recognition of indigenous peoples up to now.

a. Withdraw the Operation Plan Bayanihan as the government’s counter-insurgency strategy in Philippines; Operation Uttoran in Bangladesh; and Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 in India.

2. Urge Asian states to stop forming and using paramilitary forces and push for the dismantling of paramilitary forces.

3. Take concrete steps to address the human rights impacts of militarization and extractive industries and ensure that the collective rights of indigenous peoples including free, prior and informed consent are recognized and respected. Undertake immediate actions to stop forcible evacuations and military displacements.

4. Establish a speedy and effective mechanism of prosecuting and convicting State and corporate perpetrators of human rights violations against indigenous peoples in order to ensure justice to the victims and stop impunity such as in the Philippines, Cambodia, India, West Papua, Thailand, and others.

5. Support the peace negotiations of Asian governments with revolutionary and resistance armed forces and call for the implementation of their agreements upholding the rights of indigenous peoples:

a. The Philippine government with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to pave the way for addressing and resolving the roots of the armed conflict. Implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) to ensure that civilians including indigenous peoples are protected in the course of armed conflict.   

b. Implementation of the CHT Accord to demilitarize indigenous communities in Bangladesh.

c. The Peace Negotiations between the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (IM) on the basis of the Government of India’s “recognition of the unique history and situation of the Nagas” as acknowledged and declared on July 11, 2002.

6. Urge Asian states with foreign military bases in indigenous territories to withdraw foreign troops from indigenous territories as in the case of Ryukyu/Okinawa, Japan by the US. In accordance with Article 28 of the UNDRIP, States should undertake concrete measures including restitution or just, fair, and equitable compensation for the lands used by the foreign troops with the participation of indigenous communities concerned.  

7. Conduct international investigative missions and call for the UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya and other appropriate UN bodies to visit Asia to look into the problem of militarization and the serious human violations committed against Asian indigenous peoples.

Thank you. ***


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