Murder of Indonesia palm oil activists shows growing threat, rights groups say

(Reuters News, 11 Nov 2019) For civil society groups, the killings show that rights abuses in the $60-billion global palm oil trade remain widespread, with growing intimidation against those who investigate them.

The murder of two Indonesian activists, which police say was ordered by a palm oil businessman, highlights the escalating violence and threats faced by environmentalists who challenge the industry, rights groups say.

Martua Parasian Siregar, 55, and Maraden Sianipar, 42, were found dead 10 days ago with multiple stab wounds near a palm plantation in the island of North Sumatra.

Environmental campaigners and media watchdogs say the two men were former journalists who had got involved in a dispute between the palm oil company that operated the land and local residents.

Police said on Friday they had arrested the head of the Amelia palm oil company, who they identified only as "H" or "Harry", on suspicion of having paid several men about $3,000 to kill the two activists.

"This strengthens our suspicion that human rights violations in palm oil companies are rampant," said Dana Prima Tarigan, who heads green group the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI), which had met with the men prior to the deaths.

"This is a threat to activists and journalists," she told Reuters.

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Reuters News, 11 Nov 2019: Murder of Indonesia palm oil activists shows growing threat, rights groups say