Indigenous Malaysians Draw Maps of Burial Grounds to Fend Off Land Seizure

28394524188_2c940320b2_b

Indigenous groups in Malaysia are using drones and knowledge from village elders to create detailed maps of burial grounds to stake claim to land that is ancestrally theirs and to fight a new law that has led to massive land seizures, according to Reuters.

The new land law, implemented in the rainforest-dense Sarawak state of Borneo, seems to be a move by the Malaysian government to maximize the territory for commercial plantations and logging projects. Last week, hundreds of indigenous took to the streets to protest the legislation.

“They are not recognizing us as rightful owners of land that we inherited from our ancestors,” said Mark Bujang of the Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia.

Under the new law, the government requires indigenous people to apply for state recognition of ancestral lands and communal forests.

According to the Malaysian government, the new piece of legislation will give indigenous groups actually recognized rights to the land, rather than uncodified right to use of the land.

But that seems like a dubious rationale, considering the government has placed a cap on the amount of land that an indigenous community can claim a right to.

To fight off the aspiration of government officials and corporations to seize the land for monetary uses, many indigenous communities in the area have employed drone technology and testimonies from village elders to create detailed maps of their ancestral lands.

Read the full story here.