The Indonesian parliament approved a bill on Friday that gives the government eminent domain [JURIST news archive] powers to seize land from individuals without their consent, as long as compensation is provided. Proponents of the bill argue that it will allow the government to increase infrastructure [Reuters report], leading to improvements in the economy. A day after the bill passed, Fitch Ratings [official website] upgraded Indonesia to an investment grade rating. Human rights groups argue that the land acquisition bill threatens notions of traditional lands rights and will lead to conflict between land owners and the government.
Eminent domain has become an issue in many members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [official website] recently due to their improving economies [Jakarta Post report]. However, controversy surrounds the governments' expanding use of their powers to seize land from indigenous people. In September Malaysia's Federal Court ruled unanimously against [JURIST report] indigenous people fighting against the Sarawak government's seizure of land to build a USD $2.3 billion dam project. In December, the US government pledged to support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [JURIST report], a non-binding UN treaty expressing support for the rights of indigenous peoples. The US was the last member to lend its support to the treaty. In August 2010, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] called on governments to improve the living conditions of indigenous peoples [JURIST report] and support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.