Five villages that border Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park in Melawi, West Kalimantan, are rekindling their protest over the park boundaries and the appropriation of their lands by the park. The park was established as a nature reserve in 1981 without participation of customary users. Customary user contestations are muted by a democratic void in which they are without recognition in the governance structures of the park. Therefore, communities have sought Indigenous peoples’ rights NGOs to represent them and advance their customary claims over land. These NGOs prove more salient to the needs of the villages because they focus less on distributive justice through benefit sharing and more on recognition justice through the advancement of land claims. Whilst villagers decry the lack of any benefit from the park, it is they themselves who refuse to accept such benefits from park authorities. This paper explores the struggles for recognition over customary land in the national park and finds that peoples’ resistance to the State, including offers of distributive benefits, is rooted in the notion that their consent constitutes acceptance of State authority over customary land.
- Environmental justice
- Multi-level governance