Sarawak Police dismantle Penan blockade for the second time
The current situation near Long Benali evokes pictures of the forceful dismantlement of the Long Ajeng blockade on 29 September 1993 (picture). At the time, a six-year old boy died and several persons were injured due to excessive police violence. To this day, many inhabitants of Long Ajeng are denied identity cards because of their ongoing resistance against logging. (Picture: BMF)
Blockading community was intimidated with gunshots – The Bruno Manser Fonds urges the international community to pressure Samling and the Sarawak State government to end human rights violations against the Penan
Penan communities from the Upper Baram region of the Malaysian State of Sarawak report renewed police action on their native lands. On 4 April 2007, officers of the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC), with support from a special police force unit, removed a Penan logging road blockade near Long Benali, a community located at a strategic entry point to one of Sarawak’s last contiguous pristine rainforest areas.
The police used chainsaws to dismantle the blockade and set the logs on fire, the community reported. Timber company workers of Samling, a controversial Malaysian timber company, were also present at the site. “The police and the company workers were very rude and did not negotiate with us”, a Penan spokesman said. “We couldn’t do anything because we heard the police firing gunshots which made the situation really dangerous to us.”
At the time of the dismantlement, only few Penan were near the blockade site. The blockade, which included a gate and a house with a zinc roof, had been erected by the Penan in mid-March after an earlier blockade hade been removed by the police on 7 February 2007. After the dismantlement, surveyors moved in to continue the preparations for a planned logging road into the Samling concession. The recent police action took place in an area certified by the Malaysian Timber Certification Council MTCC despite protests by the local communities.
It has been reported that the security forces set up a camp near the blockade site to guard the road construction workers. The situation evokes pictures of the early 1990s, when Samling first gained access to the Upper Baram region thanks to police violence.
The Bruno Manser Fonds urges the international community to pressure Samling and the Sarawak state government to end violating the Penan’s human rights.
(6 April 2007)