Indigenous Peoples In Insular Southeast Asia: Definitions And Discourses In Indonesia And The Philippines
Gerard A. Persoon The concept of indigenous peoples as used in the international discourse and by multilateral agencies is highly controversial in various Southeast Asian countries. There are big differences between countries in terms of rights and status of indigenous peoples. Indonesia for instance basically denies that there is a domestic issue regarding indigenous peoples in the way it is understood by the international community. It also denies that some ethnic groups are indigenous while others are not. Indonesia only differentiates between Indonesian citizens and outsiders in addition to Indonesians of a different ethnic origin like the Chinese or Arabs. Tribal communities are only considered as ”isolated groups” in urgent need of development and not as indigenous peoples, somewhat comparable to the situation of the Scheduled Tribes in India. Vietnam’s official policy is similar to that of Indonesia in some respects. The country does not recognise indigenous peoples as such, some 53 hill tribes are only classified as ethnic minorities. The Philippines however shows a radically different picture within the Asian context. In 1997 the former president Ramos signed the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act, granting excessive rights to the indigenous peoples of the country who constitute more than 10 percent of the country's population of over 70 million people. Because of the very active role of Filipino non-governmental organisations within the Asian indigenous peoples’ movement, governments of neighbouring countries are regularly irritated by the position of this country.