Malaysian Indigenous People Face Arrest at Logging Blockade
MIRI, Sarawak, Malaysia, June 17, 2008 (ENS) - A month-long blockade of logging roads by indigenous people in the state of Sarawak, Malaysia set to protest illegal logging on their communal lands is about to be broken up by police.

More than 100 indigenous Kenyah people gathered at the blockade site on the upper Moh River on the island of Borneo claim that the blockade is their only way of calling on representatives of the Samling Timber Company and government authorities to have a consultation and meet with them to listen to their problems and demands.

Otherwise, they say, the Samling Timber Company will continue to ignore their demands and plights.

Kenyahs blockade a logging road on the Upper Moh River. The banner says, "Samling, do not rob the wealth from the poor people's land and give it to the rich in the city." (Photo courtesy Borneo Resources Institute)

According to the Borneo Resources Institute in Miri, which issued a statement today on behalf of the Kenyah peoples, ever since Samling started its logging operations in the upper Baram area, the indigenous communities have suffered the environmental impacts of logging.

They say the company simply encroached into their communal land and forest areas to carry out logging activities, without any consultation and consideration for their source of livelihood.

The Kenyahs have forwarded some "reasonable demands for social benefits and development of the community as they are the rights stakeholders that should be fairly benefit from forest resources in their area," the Borneo Resources Institute says.

The Kenyah say they resorted to the blockade action after the company and the state forest agency ignored their demands and their rights of access and claims to the benefits of their natural forest resources.

Since the blockade was erected, Samling's logging activities have ceased. Hundreds of timber logs that had been felled are stacked up along the sides of the logging road because the Kenyahs have stopped all the logging trucks and other logging machines from entering the area and transporting timber from the area.

Kenyah people with logs felled by Samling Timber Company on traditional lands. (Photo courtesy Borneo Resources Institute)

The Kenyahs have written a letter to the Sarawak Forestry Corporation, a state government agency, requesting that the agency carry out an urgent physical inspection of all logs that have been illegally felled by Samling in the area.

They also called upon the Sarawak Forestry Corporation to stop Samling from carrying out its operation until all inspection of timber logs has been completed.

Their request has been ignored.

Believing that they have no other alternative and being compelled to bring attention to their plight, the indigenous Kenyahs of Kedaya Telang Usan area in Baram Region have resorted to staging this protest, which is still continuing.

On May 29, upon receiving complaints from the Samling Timber Company, a group of personnel from the Sarawak Forestry Corporation, went to the blockade site to remove the wooden barricades, but they were restrained from dismantling the blockade.

As a result, the Sarawak Forestry Corporation filed a court action requesting a Warrant of Arrest, which has been granted by the Magistrate Court in Miri.

Police personnel from the Marudi Police Station were ordered to the blockade site to enforce the Warrant of Arrest on June 14. So far, no arrests have taken place.

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