Borneo tribe mounts new blockades against rainforest destruction

"A logger handles trees felled in the Penan's region."
"A logger handles trees felled in the Penan's region."
© Andy Rain/Nick Rain/Survival

Dozens of Penan tribespeople armed with blowpipes and spears have erected blockades across the roads cut by logging companies deep into their forest in Borneo. The blockaders are calling for an end to logging on their land.

Survival International is calling for recognition of the hunter-gatherer Penan tribe’s land rights and a halt to all development on their land without their consent.

Malaysian police are at the blockades, but no arrests have been reported.

One Penan man told Survival, ‘This piece of forest is the only place left for us to hunt and find food. But there’s only a little bit left. Last night I went hunting and came back with nothing. If we can’t save this bit of forest, we will have nothing to eat.’

The Penan live in Sarawak, in the Malaysian part of the island of Borneo. They have been struggling for more than twenty years to stop the companies clearing their forests. Some have been successful, but many have seen their forests devastated, their rivers polluted and the animals and plants they rely on for food disappear.

Now, where the valuable trees have all been taken, the companies are starting to clear the land completely for oil palm plantations. Palm oil is used in many foods and cosmetics, and increasingly for biofuels.

Survival sent action bulletins to thousands of supporters worldwide last week, asking them to write to the Malaysian government in support of the Penan.

Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘The logging and oil palm companies are robbing the Penan not just of their forests but of their food and water. It is essential that the Malaysian government recognizes the Penan’s rights to their land and stops allowing the companies to take everything in sight.’

The notorious Malaysian company Samling is logging in the Long Daloh area, and a subsidiary of the company KTS is logging in the Ba Marong area.

Survival researcher Miriam Ross visited the Penan earlier this year, and is available for interview.

Visit Survival’s webpage about the Penan

For more information and images please contact Miriam Ross:
T (44) (0)20 7687 8734 or (44) (0)7504543367
E mr@survival-international.org