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Taiwan aborigines want to reclaim land in government hands

2011/01/26 21:45:50

Taipei, Jan. 26 (CNA) A Taiwan aboriginal tribe will stage aprotest Friday in an effort to reclaim their traditional territorywhich they said had been illegally seized by the government and theformer Japanese colonial authorities for over 100 years.

Aborigine rights advocates and people of the Amis, one ofTaiwan's 14 indigenous tribes, are scheduled to gather in front ofthe Presidential Office Friday to demand an official apology andrespect for the aborigines' basic rights, which include land rights,Namoh Nofu Pacidal, one of the organizers of the overnight protest,told a press conference.

As the island's first residents, Taiwan aborigines effectivelyowned the island's mountainous areas until the Japanese colonialperiod from 1895-1945 and the takeover by the Kuomintang authoritiesafter World War II, Nofu said.

Except for the eight years between 2000 and 2008, Taiwan has beenruled by a Kuomintang government since 1945.

Due to the influx of the Han people, modernization and changes inTaiwan's society, the indigenous peoples had no choice but to leavetheir lands and try to earn a living in the cities, ultimately became"tribes in exile, " said Tibusungue Vayayana, a professor at NationalTaiwan Normal University.

There were 512,701 aborigines in Taiwan as of December 2010,according to the statistics of the Ministry of the Interior. Thenumber accounts for approximately 2.2 percent of Taiwan's populationof 23 million.

Thirty-six point six percent of them are Amis, the largest of the14 tribes recognized by the Taiwan government.

Vayayana claimed the Taiwan government was even worse than theJapanese, who tried to "civilize" the aborigines but designated themountains as a "reservation, " adding that the Taiwan authoritiesincorporated tribal lands into state property.

The advocates also condemned the government's attempts to developeastern Taiwan, where the majority of aborigine population residenowadays, granting build-operate-transfer (BOT) contracts withouttaking into account the land rights and living conditions of theaborigines.

That was why the group also demanded an immediate moratorium ondevelopment projects in the mountainous area and eastern Taiwan.

The Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) , Taiwan's governmentagency overseeing aboriginal affairs, has not had dialogues with theadvocates and has ignored the group's requests, said Oto Micyang,executive secretary of the Indigenous Peoples Action Coalition ofTaiwan (IPACT).

The draft of the Indigenous Autonomy Act failed to pass thelegislature this year and the contents of the draft were notconsistent with the existing Indigenous Peoples Basic Law, either,Micyang added.

"It's unfortunate that the respect for indigenous rights has gonebackwards during this administration. And we want to change that, "he said.

Well-known local singer/actress Francesca Kao, who is also knownby her aboriginal name of Paicu Yatauyungana, was among the advocatesdespite her Tsou tribe origin.

(By Chris Wang)