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From the Global to the Local: The Development of Indigenous Peoples’ Land Rights Internationally and in Southeast Asia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 February 2015

Derek INMAN
Affiliation:
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgiumderek.inman@vub.ac.be
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

Despite a noticeable shift in recent years, indigenous peoples in Asia continue to experience many forms of human rights violations, with the most serious perhaps being the loss of traditional lands and territories. The purpose of this paper is to examine indigenous peoples’ land rights and its application in Southeast Asia. To that end, the paper will provide an overview of the development of indigenous peoples’ land rights internationally; offer regional perspectives from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights; analyze the concept of indigenous peoples in Asia, juxtaposing it with concurrent difficulties being experienced on the African continent; examine three countries (Cambodia, the Philippines, and Malaysia) that recognize indigenous peoples’ land rights to some extent, whether through constitutional amendments, legislative reform, or domestic jurisprudence; and highlight the implementation gap between the rights of indigenous peoples in law and practice.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Asian Journal of International Law 2015 

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Footnotes

*

Researcher and PhD Candidate, Faculty of Law and Criminology, Department of International and European Law, Vrije Universiteit Brussels. A shorter version of this paper was presented at the 4th Biennial Conference of the Asian Society of International Law (Student Workshop), 13 November 2013, New Delhi, India. This research has been funded by the Interuniversity Attraction Poles Programme initiated by the Belgian Science Policy Office, more specifically the IAP “The Global Challenge of Human Rights Integration: Towards a Users’ Perspective” <www.hrintegration.be>.

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4. For example, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has stated:

Land is the foundation of the lives and cultures of indigenous peoples all over the world. Without access to and respect for their rights over their lands, territories and natural resources, the survival of indigenous peoples’ particular distinct culture is threatened.

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Article 11

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Article 12

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Article 13

1. In applying the provisions of this Part of the Convention governments shall respect the special importance for the cultures and spiritual values of the peoples concerned of their relationship with the lands or territories, or both as applicable, which they occupy or otherwise use, and in particular the collective aspects of this relationship.

2. The use of the term “lands” in Articles 15 and 16 shall include the concept of territories, which covers the total environment of the areas which the peoples concerned occupy or otherwise use.

Article 14

1. The rights of ownership and possession of the peoples concerned over the lands which they traditionally occupy shall be recognized. In addition, measures shall be taken in appropriate cases to safeguard the right of the peoples concerned to use lands not exclusively occupied by them, but to which they have traditionally had access for their subsistence and traditional activities. Particular attention shall be paid to the situation of nomadic peoples and shifting cultivators in this respect.

2. Governments shall take steps as necessary to identify the lands which the peoples concerned traditionally occupy, and to guarantee effective protection of their rights of ownership and possession.

3. Adequate procedures shall be established within the national legal system to resolve land claims by the peoples concerned.

Article 15

1. The rights of the peoples concerned to the natural resources pertaining to their lands shall be specially safeguarded. These rights include the right of these peoples to participate in the use, management and conservation of these resources.

2. In cases in which the State retains the ownership of mineral or sub-surface resources or rights to other resources pertaining to lands, governments shall establish or maintain procedures through which they shall consult these peoples, with a view to ascertaining whether and to what degree their interests would be prejudiced, before undertaking or permitting any programmes for the exploration or exploitation of such resources pertaining to their lands. The peoples concerned shall wherever possible participate in the benefits of such activities, and shall receive fair compensation for any damages which they may sustain as a result of such activities.

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94. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee: Mexico, Consideration of the Reports Submitted by the State Parties under Article 40 of the Covenant, Sixty-sixth Session, Human Rights Committee, UN Doc. CCPR/ C/79/Add.109 (1999) at para. 19.

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104. Ibid., at para. 3.

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106. ICERD has been ratified by Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

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109. Ibid.

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116. Ibid., at 249.

117. Mayagna (Sumo) Awas Tingni Community v. Nicaragua, Judgment of 31 August 2001, [2001] Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Series C, No. 79 [Awas Tingni].

118. Ibid., at para. 148.

119. Ibid., at para. 149.

120. American Convention, supranote 111:

Article 21

1. Everyone has the right to the use and enjoyment of his property. The law may subordinate such use and enjoyment to the interest of society.

2. No one shall be deprived of his property except upon payment of just compensation, for reasons of public utility or social interest, and in the cases and according to the forms established by law.

3. Usury and any other form of exploitation of man by man shall be prohibited by law.

121. Awas Tingni, supra 117 at para. 146. See also Tramontana, supra note 113 at 250.

122. Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous Community. v. Paraguay, [2006] Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Series C, No. 146, Judgment of 29 March 2006.

123. Ibid., at para. 120.

124. Awas Tingni, supra note 117 at para. 151.

125. Yakye Axa Indigenous Community v. Paraguay, Decision of 27 February 2002, [2002] Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Case 12.313, Report No. 2/02, Doc. 5 rev.1 at 387.

126. Saramaka People v. Suriname, Judgment of 28 November 2007, [2007] Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Series C, No. 172.

127. Ibid., at paras. 78–86.

128. Ibid.

129. Ibid.

130. Ibid., at para. 96.

131. Ibid., at paras. 99 and 115.

132. Ibid.

133. Ibid., at paras. 99–103 and 115.

134. Ibid., at paras. 126–9.

135. Kichwa Indigenous People of Sarayaku v. Ecuador, Judgment of 27 June 2012, [2012] Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Series C, No. 245 [Sarayaku].

136. Ibid., at paras. 51 and 58–123.

137. Ibid., at paras. 55, 61, and 62.

138. Ibid., at para. 160.

139. Ibid., at para. 178.

140. Ibid., at para. 164.

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143. The Centre for Minority Rights Development and Minority Rights Group International (on Behalf of the Endorois Welfare Council) v. Kenya, [2010] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Communication No. 276/2003 [Endorois].

144. In both of these cases the determining the “indigenousness” of the plaintiffs played a central role. While it is beyond the scope of this paper to deal with this issue in detail, the following section will be devoted to exploring “indigenous peoples” as a contested concept and will refer to current debates on the African continent.

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146. African (Banjul) Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 27 June 1981, 21 I.L.M. 58 (entered into force 21 October 1986) [African Charter], Part I, Chapter I:

Article 21

1. All peoples shall freely dispose of their wealth and natural resources. This right shall be exercised in the exclusive interest of the people.

2. In no case shall a people be deprived of it. In case of spoliation the dispossessed people shall have the right to the lawful recovery of its property as well as to an adequate compensation.

3. The free disposal of wealth and natural resources shall be exercised without prejudice to the obligation of promoting international economic cooperation based on mutual respect, equitable exchange and the principles of international law.

4. States parties to the present Charter shall individually and collectively exercise the right to free disposal of their wealth and natural resources with a view to strengthening African unity and solidarity.

5. States parties to the present Charter shall undertake to eliminate all forms of foreign economic exploitation particularly that practiced by international monopolies so as to enable their peoples to fully benefit from the advantages derived from their national resources.

147. Ogoni, supra note 142 at para. 55.

148. For a summary of the Endorois community, see MOREL, Cynthia, “Defending Human Rights in Africa: The Case for Minority and Indigenous Rights” (2004) 1 Essex Human Rights Review 54 at 56Google Scholar. See also Endorois, supra note 143 at paras. 3–21.

149. Ibid.

150. Ibid.

151. Ibid.

152. Ibid.

153. Ibid.

154. Ibid.

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156. Ibid.

157. Ibid.

158. Ibid., at 62.

159. Ibid., at 62–3.

160. Endorois, supra note 143 at para. 12.

161. African Charter, supra note 146, at Part I, chapter I:

Article 14

The right to property shall be guaranteed. It may only be encroached upon in the interest of public need or in the general interest of the community and in accordance with the provisions of appropriate laws.

162. Ibid., at Part I, chapter I:

Article 17

1. Every individual shall have the right to education.

2. Every individual may freely, take part in the cultural life of his community.

3.The promotion and protection of morals and traditional values recognized by the community shall be the duty of the State.

163. Ibid., at art. 21.

164. Endorois, supra note 143, at paras. 185–7.

165. Ibid., at paras. 193–6.

166. Ibid., at paras. 211–12.

167. Ibid., at para. 228.

168. Ibid., at paras. 260–6.

169. Ibid., at paras. 239–41.

170. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UN Doc. A/Res/61/295 (2007) [UNDRIP].

171. HENRIKSEN, John B., “The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Some Key Issues and Events in the Process” in Claire CHARTERS and Rodolfo STAVENHAGEN, eds., Making the Declaration Work: The United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Copenhagen: IWGIA, 2009)Google Scholar, 78 at 78–9.

172. ÅHRÉN, Mattias, “The Provisions on Lands, Territories and Natural Resources in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: An Introduction” in Claire CHARTERS and Rodolfo STAVENHAGEN, eds., Making the Declaration Work: The United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Copenhagen: IWGIA, 2009)Google Scholar, 200 at 205.

173. Ibid., at 204.

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179. Resolution 4B (XXIII), Twenty-third Session, Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, 26 August 1970.

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190. Ibid., at 280–1.

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198. Ibid., at paras. 10, 12–13.

199. ROY, Chandra K., “Indigenous Peoples in Asia: Rights and Development Challenges” in Claire CHARTERS and Rodolfo STAVENHAGEN, eds., Making the Declaration Work: The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Copenhagen: IWGIA, 2009)Google Scholar, 216 at 216.

200. Ibid.

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210. Ibid., at 22–3.

211. Ibid., at 26.

212. Ibid., at 23.

213. Ibid.

214. Ibid.

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217. Stavenhagen, ibid.

218. Anaya, supra note 216 at para. 7.

219. Stavenhagen, supra note 216 at para. 9. See also Anaya, supra note 216 at para. 8.

220. Anaya, supra note 216 at paras. 11–20. James Anaya's predecessor, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, also noted the following in 2007: the loss of indigenous peoples’ lands and territories; the situations of forest peoples; and the forced relocation and international resettlement. See Stavenhagen, supra note 216 at paras. 10–29.

221. From the region, Bangladesh abstained.

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225. Ibid., at 353.

226. Ibid.

227. Ibid., at 354.

228. Ibid., at 351.

229. Relevant provisions include art. 32, which reads: “Khmer citizens shall be equal before the law and shall enjoy the same rights, freedoms and duties, regardless of their race, color, sex, language, beliefs, religion, political tendencies, birth origin, social status, resources and any position.”

230. BAIRD, Ian G., “The Construction of ‘Indigenous Peoples’ in Cambodia” in Leong YEW, ed., Alterities in Asia: Reflections on Identity and Regionalism (London: Routledge Publishers, 2011)Google Scholar, 158.

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233. Ibid., at 297.

234. Xanthaki, supra note 107 at 478. See specifically, Cambodian Land Law (2001), arts. 26 and 27, online: <http://www.gocambodia.com/laws/data%20pdf/Law%20on%20Land/Law%20on%20Land,%202001(EN).pdf>.

235. Ibid., at 297–8.

236. Ibid., at 298.

237. Ibid., at 299.

238. Cambodia Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Economic Land Concession in Cambodia: A Human Rights Perspective” (September 2013), online: OHCHR <http://cambodia.ohchr.org/WebDOCs/DocReports/2-Thematic-Reports/Thematic_CMB12062007E.pdf> at 1.

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242. Ibid.

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244. Ibid., at 283–4.

245. Ibid., at 284–5.

246. Ibid., at 284–7 and 290.

247. Ibid., at 291–2.

248. Ibid., at 273.

249. 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, online: <http://www.gov.ph/the-philippine-constitutions/the-1987-constitution-of-the-republic-of-the-philippines>.

250. Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997, online: <http://www.gov.ph/1997/10/29/republic-act-no-8371/>.

251. Supra note 249 at art. II, s. 22.

252. Ibid., at art. XII, ss. 4–5.

253. Ibid.

254. Ibid., at art. XIV, s. 17.

255. “Country Profile: The Philippines” in Erni, supra note 224 at 428–9.

256. Ibid., at 429.

257. Ibid., at 429. See also Molintas, supra note 239 at 291.

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260. Molintas, supra note 239 at 294 and 297.

261. Supra note 255 at 429.

262. Stavenhagen, supra note 259 at para. 18.

263. Ibid., at para. 14.

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266. Ibid.

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270. “Country Profile: Malaysia” in Erni, supra note 224 at 404.

271. Idrus, supra note 267 at 94. See also HE, Baogang, “The Contested Politics of Asian Responses to Indigenous Rights” (2011) 18 International Journal on Minority and Group Rights 461 at 468Google Scholar.

272. He, supra note 271 at 468.

273. Cheah Wui LING, “Sagong Tasi and Orang Asli Land Rights in Malaysia: Victory, Milestone or False Start?” (2004) 8 Law, Social Justice and Global Development Journal 1 at 5.

274. Idrus, supra note 267 at 94.

275. Ibid., at 94–5.

276. Ibid., at 95.

277. Ling, , supra note 273 at 4Google Scholar.

278. Ibid.

279. Ibid., at 5.

280. Idrus, , supra note 267 at 95Google Scholar.

281. Sagong Tasi & Ors v. Kerajaan Negeri Selangor & Ors [2002] 2 C.L.J. 543 [Sagong Tasi].

282. Ling, , supra note 273 at 1Google Scholar.

283. Ibid., at 10.

284. Ibid.

285. Ibid.

286. Ibid.

287. See Sagong Tasi, supra note 281 at para. 11(3).

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289. MIKKELSEN, Cæcilie, ed., The Indigenous World 2010 (Copenhagen: IWGIA Publishers, 2011)Google Scholar at 347.

290. Ibid.

291. Ibid.

292. Ibid.

293. See 1957 Federal Constitution of Malaysia, supra note 269 at art. 161(A), para. (5): “Article 89 shall not apply to the State of Sabah or Sarawak, and Article 8 shall not invalidate or prohibit any provision of State law in the State of Sabah or Sarawak for the reservation of land for natives of the State or for alienation to them, or for giving them preferential treatment as regards the alienation of land by the State.”

294. Supra note 270 at 405.

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297. Supra note 270 at 405.

298. Ibid., at 406.

299. Ibid.

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307. The Paris Principles set out the minimum standards required by national human rights institutions to be considered credible and to operate effectively. See Asia Pacific Forum, “Paris Principles” (September 2013) online: <http://www.asiapacificforum.net/about/members/international-standards>.

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310. He, supra note 272 at 477.

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