Farmers arrested in Perhutani land dispute, East Java

Down to Earth No 66  August 2005

The following is the translation of an urgent action appeal from the Indonesian human rights NGO ELSAM. It is another case in which the state forestry company, Perhutani, is associated with brutality against farmers. Previous cases have been well-documented - see for example KaKKaPP letter, DTE 60.

On the morning of 7th April, 7 villagers from Krenceng (East Java) were detained by police from Kediri. They were caught with the help of Perhutani (the state forestry company operating in Java) who called farmers involved in a land dispute to a meeting to discuss the issue. The venue was a building on the disputed land. As soon as the farmers arrived, they were taken by police to Kediri police station and charged under the 1999 Forestry Act. The police said they had previously told the farmers to come in for questioning twice, with no response.

The following day, two other farmers (Sunarto and Supriyanto) were also detained while working in their fields. On April 17th Imam Muhtarom was arrested when Perhutani were clearing the farmers' crops; the villagers were trying to prevent them. Muhtarom was accused of carrying an offensive weapon. He was beaten up on the way to Kediri police station and needed medical treatment, including stitches to a head wound. More arrests took place on April 25th. The victims were accused of stealing timber. On this occasion, the police took away 70 Krenceng farmers who were preparing to plant crops, followed by another 80 people later. The police asked them who was farming the land and separated these people from those who were only labourers. The latter were allowed to go home while 18 farmers were taken to Kediri police station and held there. During their arrest, one of the Krenceng farmers (Jumino) suffered injuries after being hit and kicked in the stomach. The last arrest (Nur Hasim) took place on May 13th. Farmers from the village of Besowo in the same sub-district (Kepung) have also come into conflict with Perhutani over their use of land in an area designated as 'protection forest'. As a result, a total of 29 people people are still being held at Kediri police station while their cases are investigated.


The arrests of farmers in Krenceng goes back to a conflict over land between the local inhabitants and Perhutani in 2002 when Perhutani used bulldozers to clear mulberry bushes on land which local farmers had planted. Perhutani cleared this land because it had a new agreement with an investor. In 2004, Perhutani reached an agreement with the farmers over land allocation. However, the land allocated to the farmers was insufficient while, at the same time, Perhutani was allowing the investor to continue clearing new land for cultivation. The farmers were annoyed about this and set up their own organisation (Team VI) to clear land for themselves. Finally, Perhutani decided to clear the land cultivated by the farmers and asked the police to arrest the leadership of the farmers' group.

The Indonesian NGO ELSAM is very concerned about the situation of the Krenceng farmers and believes that this case involves the violation of the Indonesian Constitution and several national and international laws, including the Indonesian law on Human Rights.

For further information, contact ESLAM: 
E-mail: or