A Joint Statement of the Representatives of Indigenous Peoples Organizations from Asia to the Subcommission on Human Rights


On behalf of the indigenous, tribal and Aboriginal peoples of Asia, allow me to submit our common statement. We value the sessions of the subcommission and look forward to your continued support in our. struggle for justice against discrimination and genocide.

We, the indigenous, tribal and Aboriginal peoples of Asia, although so diverse in cultures, share similar problems and aspirations. We may speak many languages, but we shout with one voice. We are peoples of the land.

We assert our collective right to self-determination. A right by which we are allowed to freely determine our political status and freely pursue our social, economic and cultural development as a people.

We want to bring to the attention of the sub-commission that some Asian governments deny the existence of indigenous peoples in our part of the world. This denial is a significant obstacle in the participation of our people in the deliberation of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations. This denial also seeks to withhold the benefits of the declaration and other conventions for the indigenous peoples. We demand that, in accordance with the International Labor Organization (ILO) practice, tribal and Aboriginal people in our area be treated as equivalent to the term "indigenous people."

We would also wish to draw your attention to the fact that governments and many development agencies in our region are continuing to exert pressure on us to assimilate our peoples into alien cultures and value systems. In the process, they are forcing us to learn and speak alien languages and to violate our distinct identities and cultures. In addition, development programs that affect our people do not directly benefit us. In the name of development, these outside forces construct roads, cut trees, build dams, mine our lands, ravage our forests and displace our peoples. We demand that development programs for indigenous peoples in Asia be administered only with their full, free and informed consent and participation.

Respected chairperson, we wish to submit to the sub-commission the following issues below arising from the existing context of life of the indigenous peoples of Asia.

i. The occupation of our territories by military forces and sometimes by paramilitary units are a constant danger to our peoples and their daily life. The militarization of our areas is in some cases, like East Timor, an invasion of our lands.

ii. The stability provided by the military is used to stabilize the daily life of our people in order for multinational corporations to operate in our indigenous and tribal lands. The natural resources of our lands are the very basis of our universal rights.

iii. The presence of foreign military bases in our lands will not be beneficial for us. On the contrary, they will speed up the wars in our region. The dumping of nuclear waste is likely to take place in our seas and in our lands.

iv. The use of nuclear weapons are confronting us with waste and poisons. The degradation of our environment will be worsened by the activities of mining companies on our lands. Government and private enterprises are selling out our lands. The revenues are for the oppressors while the damage to our environment is left behind for the present and future generations of indigenous and tribal peoples.

v. Most of our people will be deprived of their land, their basic existence. Many have lost their lands. They have to flee as refugees and migrants and find refuge in other areas, which creates more tensions, and once again be victimized by others. Many indigenous and tribal peoples have become displaced persons in their own land. In many countries, governments have categorized them as displaced persons so as to deprive them of the opportunity to avail of the U.N. program for refugees. Development is on such a large scale that the indigenous and tribal peoples can only experience the negative impact of this development as aggressive.

vi. We believe that a session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations held in Asia will greatly facilitate the constructive participation of the indigenous peoples of the region in the drafting of the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Asia is the home of a large number of indigenous and tribal peoples, and our participation in the work of the Working Group is crucial since our problems are very serious and implicate millions of us.

Geneva, Switzerland
August 1991

Signed by:

  • Viktor Kaisiepo, West Papuan Peoples’ Front
  • Dr. Em Marta, Karen National Union
  • Jyotirindra Chakma and Sanjib Chakma, Jumma Network in Europe
  • A.K. Kisku and Dr. Ramdayal Munda, Indian Council of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples
  • I. Chiang, Alliance of Taiwan Aborigines
  • Pablo Santos, National Federation of Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines
  • Datu Jimid Mansayagan, Lumad Mindanao
  • Mutang Urud, Sarawak Indigenous People’s Alliance
  • Kathleen T. Okubo, Cordillea Peoples Alliance
  • Luingam Luitbui, Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights
  • Raajen Singh, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact
  • The Ainu Association of Hokkaido
  • Homeland Mission 1950 for South Moluccas
  • Hmong People

(This statement was written by representatives of Asia’s tribal peoples meeting at the U.N. Working Group for Indigenous Populations [UNWGIP], July/August 1991, Geneva, Switzerland.)