Indigenous rights and the Smangus case

wood carved smangus sign

photo by Dean Lin (Creative Commons licence)

Today’s Taipei Times reports that the Taiwan High Court sentenced three men from the village of Smangus to three months in prison for removing a fallen tree. The sentence was suspended for two years, but the men were still required to pay a fine of NT$79,000 each. The men were appealing an earlier sentence and plan a further appeal to the Supreme Court.

I wrote about this issue in May of this year noting, “this case really goes to the heart of the rights of indigenous people, not just in Taiwan, but throughout the world.” For more background on the case please see the blog of the Smangus community. Smangus is an Atayal village in the mountains of Xinzhu County.

Another article in today’s Taipei Times addresses issues relating to indigenous peoples’ rights and the law in Taiwan. In response to the UN General Assembly adopting the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Minister of the Council of Indigenous Peoples Icyang Parod urged the legislature to pass more legislation related to the Aboriginal Basic Law (原住民族基本法). Quoting from the article:

“About 90 percent of the content in the declaration is already covered in our Aboriginal Basic Law,” Icyang said at a news conference. “We’re working toward the same goal, and thus we welcome the adoption.”

However, Icyang also urged the legislature to collaborate to better provide better protection of Aboriginal rights.

“Despite the passage of the Aboriginal Basic Law, we still need 10 pieces of sublegislation to provide details on its execution,” he said.

For instance, the law protects Aborigines’ right to land in their traditional tribal domains, but the boundaries of the domains need to be clarified, Icyang said.

It is good in one way that Taiwan has put some legislation in place that protects indigenous rights. However, the Smangus case shows that in practice some basic rights are still not protected by the law.

Update: Michael Turton and I-fan Lin at Global Voices have also blogged on this issue.

4 thoughts on “Indigenous rights and the Smangus case

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  4. Hi David, If I haven’t mentioned it before then here it is. I read your posts on Smangus case before when MJ had mentioned about them in his weekly picks series . I went through most of them and found it quite informative. I’m no expert on the case or laws but I must appreciate you efforts to do the research and give voice to the Smangus people on your blog. You are doing a great job 🙂

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