Land grabbing abuse over indigenous communities has become a global issue. But it is most evident in Malaysia, and particularly in the state of Sarawak, located on the island of Borneo.
The state of Sarawak only became part of the federation of Malaysia in 1963, five years after the departure of the English settlers. It was only after the enactment of a large number of laws to protect the rights of indigenous communities that Sarawak joined the federation of Malaysia. According to its 1958 land code, the maintenance and cultivation of virgin land gives indigenous people a permanent right to the land. However, this code has been amended many times since the 1970s, when the country entered an era of significant industrialization.
Many communities have already been evicted from their lands and had their cultivable land taken away. While indigenous people have customary rights to the land they occupy, they rarely have titles to prove their ownership. The government uses this loophole to license their land to private companies for oil palm plantations, logging of precious woods or construction of hydroelectric dams. Today, nearly 70% of Sarawak's territory has been handed over to logging companies.