Oil palm is today the fastest growing monoculture in the tropics. Indonesia is the largest producer. The country has witnessed a massive conversion of customary (adat) land to oil palm (and fast-wood) plantations. Between 1967 and 2007, oil palm monocultures have increased about 50 times and the government is planning to expand the area under plantation.
In 2004, thousands of villagers of Tambusai, Rokan Hulu District, Riau province, Sumatra took part in a demonstration to protest about PT PSA’s continued occupation of customary land, seemingly with the tacit acceptance of the district authorities. During the demonstration, a group of militia members, allegedly armed by and working for the company, attacked protesters. Two villagers were cut and stabbed to death by private militias, armed with spears, arrows and swords. Another five men were wounded and one of them died of his wounds several months later. Local police allegedly looked on while the attacks took place.
The case was rooted in forced land appropriation which began in 1995 when PT PSA obtained a land use permit over 10 600 ha of land from the Minister of Agrarian Affairs/Head of National Land Agency. An investigation by a government team in 2001 into PT PSA’s plantations found that the company was developing oil palm plantations without any formal license over a further area of 2900 ha . The team recommended the return of this land to the villagers, and asked for smallholdings to be developed. District authorities decided to stop the land from being used either by the villagers or the company from 2002 onwards. However, PT PSA continued to harvest the plantations on this land, causing resentment amongst villagers. In 2005, the Farmers Association for Justice rejected a company-government offer of a smaller area of land on a neighbouring village’s land since they believed this would cause further conflict between communities. In May 2005 another protest was reported at the Governor's house. When demonstrators were turned away they broke in and damaged property.  They have continued to demand that those responsible for the deaths of the three men be brought to justice.