[South East Asia] Farmers in South East Asia may lose their land dues to Covid-19

Many farmers and indigenous people in South East Asia are on the verge of losing their lands due to the lockdowns that are imposed to contain the Covid-19 (coronavirus), according to land rights activists who are backing new technologies to help track the growing number of conflicts.
With over 4.4 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally and about 300,000 have died, farmer across the world are struggling to tend to their fields, and some indigenous people kept from forests because of restrictions on movement, making it easier for illegal loggers and companies to encroach their lands, analysts said.
“The pandemic has opened an opportunity for activities such as illegal logging and land grabs across Asia-Pacific because of less oversight and accountability,” said David Ganz, executive director of advocacy group The Centre for People and Forests. “Many conflicts are legacy issues of weak tenure rights and poor forest governance exacerbated by the current situation. But some are a result of companies moving ahead on controversial operations,” he added.
Two farmers were killed in Indonesia in March in clashes over a long-standing land dispute with a palm oil firm in South Sumatra province. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, five farmers were killed in Sorsogon province to the south of Manila earlier this month in a territory dispute, according to human rights group Karapatan. Philippine authorities said the men were armed rebels.
 
The Philippines was ranked first in the list of dangerous country in the world in 2018 for land rights activists by Britain-based human rights group Global Witness. Michel Forst, the former United Nations special rapporteur for human rights defenders said land rights activists worldwide are at heightened risk now, with their access to justice also stymied because of the lockdowns.
He said “Land and environmental defenders are sitting ducks. If their lives were at risk before, this pandemic has only exacerbated an already difficult situation.”
The Indian government have diluted environmental norms for mining and industrial projects, with the lockdown making it impossible for people “even to resist” the threats to their land. With police and security forces engaged in enforcing lockdowns, the cases of illegal logging have been reported in Nepal, Myanmar, Cambodia and Indonesia.
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