Penan challenge logging giant Samling with video message from the ground

After Samling denied claims that it entered the Penan territory of Long Pakan late last year, the community has released proof from the ground of a clear intention to extract timber: satellite images of a logging road built by the company on their land.

(LONG PAKAN / BARAM / SARAWAK) In a video message, Penan villagers from Long Pakan in the upper Baram area stand up against logging company Samling: while Samling claims that Long Pakan is outside their concession area, satellite images show the construction of a logging road into the Penan community’s territory, a clear intention that logging will take place on Long Pakan's NCR land.

Penan villager Dison Betik addresses Samling in a video message recorded on the 20th of February 2022 at a fresh logging road close to Long Pakan: “We are from the village Long Pakan. Here we can see the work of the timber company Samling, taking place on our land. (…) According to Samling, this area is outside of Long Pakan. As we are standing here, we can tell you, this is not true. The land that is being destroyed from Samling is our Native Customary Rights (NCR) land. (…) They already took trees and built bridges and roads. (…) We ask please help us get rid of the Samling Company. That is the desire of the people from Long Pakan. (…) Our headman never gave Samling the permission to exploit our forest. We stand up for our land and our forest.”

With this video, the Penan from Long Pakan directly refute Samling Group’s COO James Ho Yam Kuan, who wrote in a letter to Malaysiakini late last year stating: “Samling did not carry out any logging operations in Long Pakan as the area is outside its concession area”*.  While the actual village site of Long Pakan is outside Samling’s concession T/0405, the concession boundary lies only a few hundred meters away from the village and a large share of the community’s territory is under the concession.

According to the villagers, Samling has been constructing a road into Long Pakan’s NCR land since August 2021. Simon Kälin, project coordinator and GIS specialist at the Bruno Manser Fonds, visited the area in February: “The villagers brought me to the logging road and I took GPS coordinates of the destruction. I also analyzed available satellite images. There is no doubt, since August 2021 Samling has been building a road into the area claimed by the community. By late February, the road was only around 2km away from the village of Long Pakan. Samling would not build a road without the intention to extract timber.”

Komeok Joe, head of the Penan organization KERUAN, is appalled: “Samling is denying our very existence. How can they claim that the territory of Long Pakan is not within their concession? We Penan might have no roads to our villages, but we are here and will stay.”

Samling entered the area in August with the support of some of the youth of Long Pakan. The village elders and other community members reacted with a blockade in September, and headman Pada Jutang subsequently lodged a police report in early October.

Video message:

* James Ho Yam Kuan, LETTER | Response to Malaysiakini's article on Samling Group. Malaysiakini, 6.12.2021.

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