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The assassination of palm oil activists in Indonesia shows that the threat is growing

The killing of two Indonesian activists, allegedly ordered by a palm oil businessman according to the police, highlights the escalating violence and threats facing environmentalists who challenge the industry, according to human rights groups.

Martua Parasian Siregar, 55, and Maraden Sianipar, 42, were found dead 10 days ago, stabbed wounded around a palm grove near the island of North Sumatra.

Environmental activists and media guards said the two men were former journalists who had been involved in a dispute between the palm oil company that was exploiting the land and the residents local.

Police said Friday they arrested the oil company manager Amelia, identified by "H" or "Harry", who was alleged to have paid several men about $ 3,000 to kill the two militants.

"This reinforces our suspicion of human rights abuses in palm oil companies," said Dana Prima Tarigan, who heads the green group of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI), which had met the men before the death.

"It's a threat to activists and journalists," she told Reuters.

Police said the palm oil concession where the bodies of the men were found was closed by the government in 2018 for the illegal clearing of several hectares of forest.

The two activists were working with local farmers to take control of the palm harvest in the area, the police said.

"The motive for the incident revolves around a land dispute case," North Sumatra police chief Agus Andrianto told reporters, adding that four more suspects had been arrested and three others still in custody. leak.

"We firmly believe that H asked someone to get rid of the men … or to slaughter them when they went to the scene," Andrianto said, adding that "H" had denied the charges.

Local media reported that "H" was the businessman Wibharry "Harry" Padmoasmolo, who headed Amelia. Reuters could not reach him immediately for a comment.

For civil society groups, the murders show that rights abuses in the world's $ 60 billion palm oil trade remain widespread and that bullies are becoming increasingly intimidating.

The killings took place a few weeks after the death of Golfrid Siregar, an environmental lawyer at WALHI in North Sumatra.

Although police said his death was a car accident, human rights groups said the circumstances were mysterious and called for further investigation.

Palm oil, the most widely used edible oil in the world, is found in margarine, biscuits and soaps, but has received increasing attention in recent years of criticism. who accuse its production of the loss of forests, fires and the exploitation of the workers.

Indonesia and Malaysia produce 85% of the world's palm oil.

"Our palm oil industry has been built and continues to rely on the stained blood and suffering of the people," said Greenpeace activist Annisa Rahmawati, when asked about the killings of the two activists.

murder (t) Indonesia (t) trade (t) palm oil (t) Martua Parasian Siregar (t) Maraden Sianipar

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