Indigenous Dayak man jailed after Indonesian palm oil firm alleges theft

JAKARTA — On March 10, Suande, a member of the Dayak Indigenous community in Indonesian Borneo, said goodbye to his family before leaving his village for the police station in the nearby district of Nunukan. He had been called in for questioning due to a report filed by palm oil company PT Karangjuang Hijau Lestari (KHL), a subsidiary of FAP Agri, owned by Indonesia’s billionaire Fangiono family. KHL had accused 17 villagers of stealing palm fruit from its plantation, and while Suande wasn’t one of them, he was employed as a security guard at the plantation and police wanted to talk to him. They did more than that. Since leaving his house that day, Suande has languished in jail, taken into custody immediately after being questioned by the police. “[His family] hasn’t been able to visit him because of COVID-19,” Djayu Sukma Ifantara, a project officer at the NGO Sustainable Forestry People’s Foundation (YMKL), told Mongabay. FAP Agri said Suande was detained because he had been caught red-handedly harvesting palm fruit from the KHL plantation. It said Suande had admitted to the crime and to doing it several times. “In this matter, the company has filed a report to the police and [we will] wait and respect the ongoing legal process,” FAP Agri told Mongabay. The sudden arrest left Suande’s family and neighbors clueless as to his whereabouts; the police didn’t notify them, Djayu said. “We were looking for information because on March 10 he didn’t come home,” he said.…This article was originally published on Mongabay