We have just received the news that the Penan communities of Ba Abang and Long Kawi in Sarawak's Middle Baram region have started blockading a logging road to prevent the further felling of their rainforests.
According to community information received by the Bruno Manser Fund, the blockade has been erected last Thursday, 13th October 2011, and has been attended by more than 70 Penan tribespeople. The blockade is located near the Ba Bunau river within the claimed Native Customary Rights land of the Ba Abang community. It is mainly directed against Interhill, a Malaysian logging company based in Miri, Sarawak. Interhill is also known to be the owner of the Pullman 5-star hotel in Sarawak's capital, Kuching. The Pullman Kuching hotel is being operated by the French Accor group.
The Penan accuse Interhill of particularly aggressive and environmentally destructive logging during the past months. Several attempts by the communities to nego! tiate with Interhill responsibles have failed. Interhill had already been accused of similar conduct in 2009. An independent study commisioned by the French Accor group showed at the time that Interhill had been involved in illegal and unsustainable logging practices. Following pressure from Accor's sustainability department, Interhill promised to better its conduct but has obviously failed to live up to its promises.
The Bruno Manser Fund has learned that Interhill called the police and forestry department officials to dissolve the blockade but the Penan are currently upholding their protest. In December 2009, six Penan communities of the Middle Baram region jointly filed court cases to claim land titles over their customary land and asked for the logging licences to be declared null and void. The cases are currently pending at the Miri High Court.
The Bruno Manser Fund is calling on the Interhill management to instruct their staff to! immediately stop the destructive logging of the Penan forests and to send a high-ranking delegation to the blockade site to apologize for the company's conduct. We are particiulary disappointed to learn that Interhill failed to live up to the promises made to the French Accor group and to the international community two years ago.