At loggerheads

Published: Tuesday 15 August 2006

Barriers to modernity? (Credit: Rengah Sarawak)Malaysia's indigenous Penan tribe have once again resorted to road blockades to protect their native customary land rights and last remaining ancestral rainforest reserves in the Sarawak region of the island of Borneo. The blockades are the latest in their battle against the country's logging companies for over two decades. But the Malaysian government, under the influence of logging companies, is against the movement. To break the long-standing blockades erected by the Penan tribe, the police and the Federal Reserve Unit are reportedly moving into the Baram region. Violence against the indigenous people of Sarawak is a distinct possibility. In the first week of July, the Malaysian logging company, Interhill Logging dismantled a road blockade mounted near Ba Abang in the middle Baram region. Subsequently, the government officials dismantled another blockade erected by the Penan community of Long Benali in February 2004. Meanwhile, the Penan tribal communities have appealed to the government to support their struggle.

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