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Penans of Borneo erect new blockades against loggers

April 14, 2010

Determined to fight, Penans erect new blockades
Apr 14, 10 2:58pm

Faced with the spectre of losing more of their forest and land to timber giant Samling Group, Penans from Sarawak’s Upper Baram have erected two road blockades to stop loggers from entering their domain, said rainforest advocacy group Bruno Manser Fund (BMF).

The blockades have been erected at two strategical locations on logging roads near the Penan villages of Long Sabai and Ba Kerameu on the upper reaches of the Akah river, said the Switzerland-based NGO in a report.

According to BMF, Samling surveyors had been told several times to stop their activities on the Penans’ lands, but have so far refused to heed the natives’ demands.

As a consequence, the villagers on March 24 erected a blockade followed by a second one on March 31.

Spokesperson for the Long Sabai community Aya Luding (right) told BMF: “We know that we are weaker than the Samling bulldozers.

“But we are determined to fight for our next generation because we cannot survive without the forest.

“If we let the company in and do some logging, they will want to take all of our forest,” Aya was quoted as saying.

Last November, 17 Penan communities of the Upper Baram region had declared their native lands a self-administered nature reserve.

They had declared 163,000 hectares of forest area in the Upper Baram as a ‘Penan peace park’ in a bid to challenge the Sarawak government’s earmarking of the area for logging.

Blockades by Penans in the upper reaches of Baram have been set up at different sites in the area for the last 15 years to protect what is regarded as the ‘last frontier’ of virgin jungle.

Officials say there are more than 16,000 Penan in Sarawak.

Blockades, often associated with the Long Benalih villagers, had been dismantled by the authorities on numerous occasions.

Their plight of the Penans was made famous in the 1980s by environmental and indigenous peoples’ activist Bruno Manser, who waged a crusade to protect their way of life and fend off the loggers.

Some of the past blockades have seen violence and arrests against the natives. Manser himself vanished in 2000 – many suspect foul play.

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