#FreeBongku Stop Criminalizing Indigenous Peoples!

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Why is it that so many small farmers are threatened to be imprisoned recently? The latest case is Pak Bongku (58 years old). Pak Bongku is a small farmer, Indigenous to the Sakai tribe in Suluk Bongkal, Bengkalis, Riau.

He is sentenced to 1 year in jail and fined for 500 million Indonesia Rupiah (over USD $30,000), only because he was cultivating land!

On Sunday, November 3rd, 2019, Pak Bongku was arrested by PT. Arara Abadi’s (PT. AA) security officers when he was cutting down a tree. Just for your information, the location of the tree is on the customary land of the Sakai Indigenous Peoples, Pak Bongku’s ancestral land.

In the aftermath, Pak Bongku was put on trial at the Bengkalis District Court on February 24th, 2020 and was sued for reducing the harvest volume of PT. AA, even though the land that Pak Bongku cultivated was only half a hectare. It’s nothing compared to PT. Arara Abadi’s land area which spans thousands of hectares.

Pak Bongku was charged with the Law on Preventing and Eradicating Forest Destruction (UU Pencegahan dan Pemberantasan Perusakan Hutan/UU P3H), even though the law aims to punish perpetrators of planned and systemic large-scale forest destruction. Not to punish small farmers whose livelihoods depend on their land!

This is not fair to Pak Bongku, whose only activity is to farm everyday without any malintent to commit a crime. The sentencing of 1 year imprisonment and 500 million Indonesian Rupiah is very harsh. With what money can Pak Bongku pay for a fine that large?

With this petition, we, from the Coalition of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Defenders, ask the Bengkalis District Court to #FreeBongku. Law enforcement should prioritize the interests of Indigenous Peoples who are impoverished, lack legal literacy, and only seek to provide for their families from the forest, as opposed to serving the interests of the corporate elite.

Voice your support through this petition. Let’s show the Bengkalis District Court judges that the public is paying attention to this case. So the legal process can be followed fairly and not blunt upwards while sharp downwards.