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17 Jun 2021

Rhett A. Butler, Mongabay

Malaysia: Anti-logging activist says Indigenous community-led campaigns are crucial to ensure success of environmental protections

'‘Listening to communities must go beyond ticking compliance boxes’, says Peter Kallang, a Kenyah leader', 9 June 2021

The Malaysian state of Sarawak was until recently home to some of the last truly nomadic peoples of Borneo, who roamed its wild and rich rainforests as they had done since time immemorial. Starting in the early 1980s, industrial logging companies moved deep into Sarawak’s hinterland, tearing down forests, forcing forest peoples from their traditional lands, and laying the groundwork for large-scale conversion of biodiverse ecosystems into monoculture plantations. Mines and large-scale dams proliferated across the landscape, affecting rivers and further displacing forest-dependent communities. This orgy of ecological devastation was coupled with astounding levels of corruption... Sarawak’s Indigenous peoples put up resistance against these state-backed incursions into their traditional territories, blockading logging roads, protesting in Malaysian cities, establishing NGOs, filing legal challenges, and forming alliances with local and international groups like the Bruno Manser Fund and The Borneo Project. They were met with intimidation and violence, ongoing destruction of their forest home, and criminalization of their activities... NGO SAVE Rivers [is] a group led by Kenyah community member Peter Kallang... Kallang says that the successful Baram campaign demonstrated what could be achieved via Indigenous community-led campaigns...