Indigenous Penan communities in the Malaysian part of Borneo are fearing a police crackdown after having staged a logging road blockade near Long Win in Sarawak’s Apoh Tutoh region.
The blockade was set up to defend the communities’ last remaining rainforests against logging by Rinpark Sdn Bhd, a Malaysian logging company linked to the family of Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud (“Taib”).
According to the Penan, the Malaysian police have sent a number of police officers to the blockade which had been set up in May 2011 by the villagers after Rinpark failed to live up to promises made to the community during an earlier blockade.
The blockade was dismantled by the police and forestry enforcement officials yesterday (Sunday 24 July 2011) but re-erected by the locals this morning.
While the forests of Long Win, Long Bangan and nearby native communities have been logged several times already, the locals are fearing that their last forests will be cut down in order to make for oil palm plantations.
“Please alert the international community on what is happening to our forests”, a Penan spokesperson said to the Bruno Manser Fund.
“The situation is very tense now as the police and forest department staff have set up a camp near the blockade site”.
The involved logging company, Rinpark Sdn Bhd, is closely linked to the highly corrupt Malaysian Taib family.
One of its directors is Azerina Mohd Arip, the first wife of Taib’s late brother Arip Mahmud.
Rinpark shareholder-cum-director Patrick Embol Anak Undi is also a main figure within the Taib-linked Lanco group of companies that is involved in controversial land deals in Sarawak’s Balingian region.
For three decades, the Penan have struggled to defend their rainforests against logging.
While the Taib family and a handful of logging tycoons have made a fortune from the cutting down of Sarawak’s forests, the Penan have seen suffering from the negative consequences of the destruction of their natural environment.