Stop the trashing of Sarawak's forests NOW!

A roadblock set up by indigenous people A roadblock set up by indigenous people (© SADIA)
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In Sarawak, indigenous people are fighting tooth and nail for their ancestral forests. Numerous companies are intruding and clearing their land for plantations. Activists are being harassed and villagers jailed for days at a time. Tell Malaysia to respect their rights and keep their forests safe.

Call to action

To: the federal government of Malaysia and the state government of Sarawak

“Respect the rights of indigenous people and keep their forests safe.”

Read letter

Forest defenders of the indigenous Iban people are setting up peaceful blockades and calling on the gods for divine assistance while the authorities harass them. Activist Matek Geram of the Sarawak Iban Association (SADIA) is being followed and photographed by strangers. A dozen villagers were arrested and high bail payments set for their release. Yet they have no intention of giving up on one of the last rainforests of their ancestral home in Sarawak.

For more than 30 years, businesses have been systematically plundering nature in the Malaysian part of Borneo. Matek's organization lists more than 100 palm oil companies involved in land conflicts and environmental destruction. At the top of the list in autumn 2018: Cipta Sawit Plantation Sdn. Bhd and Stone Head Sdn Bhd. Matek says that the companies have come to his village of Ulu Kelawit to cover their land with oil palm plantations and a quarry.

The Malaysian state of Sarawak is one of the world’s hotbeds of deforestation, and if this destructive trend continues, Sarawak’s last forests will soon be gone. The habitat of orangutans and other endangered primates is at stake, as are the livelihoods of the local people.

The indigenous peoples want to protect their forests against powerful business interests. The villagers know that roadblocks will not be enough to stop the destruction, and so they are mapping their ancestral land and suing the companies intruding on it. Winning lawsuits is becoming more difficult, however, as Sarawak’s government has curtailed traditional indigenous land rights.

Tell the relevant politicians in Malaysia and Sarawak to respect the rights of indigenous people and keep the state’s forests safe.

Please also support the resistance of the Iban people with a donation to help finance their mapping efforts.


Activist Matek Geram

Rainforest Rescue has been supporting Malaysian environmentalist Matek Geram since 2015, when he went up against Bintulu Lumber Development (BLD), a company that cleared 14,000 hectares of peat forest and planted oil palm plantations. According to the Chain Reaction Research, BLD is among the world’s worst deforesters: On a list of the biggest forest destroyers of the first nine months of 2018, the company takes first place!

BLD belongs to the KTS timber group. The company's other business interests include distributing Stihl chainsaws in Sarawak. In March 2016, Matek traveled to Germany to protest in front of the Stihl factory premises in Waiblingen. Stihl refused to talk to him.

Penan people stop logging company

The indigenous Penan managed to stop the Lee Ling logging company in mid-October. The Swiss Bruno Manser Fund, which supports the Penan, writes:

"For the last two years, the Penan have tried to prevent the logging company Lee Ling from entering the forest with a barricade on the logging road. This August, the village under headman Peng Megut decided to strengthen their efforts: They built a house across the logging road. When the logging company came back, they had no chance to get through and to continue the road construction as well as the timber extraction.

On the 12th of October, the logging company returned to the blockade site with support of the police and representatives of the Sarawak Forest Department. Based on the recently completed community maps, the Penan showed how the logging activities threaten their territorial rights in the area. Consequently, the Sarawak Forest Department sent the logging company home and stated that Lee Ling should not proceed with further timber extraction without the consent of the Penan village.

Since the 1990s, the Penan have been resisting the destruction of rainforests in Sarawak state, the Malaysian part of Borneo. Last year, the Penan and the Bruno Manser Fund published a set of 23 maps documenting the Penan’s traditional forest and land use."

Further reading:

The Guardian: 'This is daytime': bright red haze from Indonesian rainforest fires envelops city


To: the federal government of Malaysia and the state government of Sarawak

Dear Prime MinisterMuhyiddin Yassin,
dear Chief Minister Abang Abdul Rahman Zohari,

In recent years, Sarawak has gained notoriety as one of the world’s hotbeds of deforestation. Peat forests are affected to a high degree. If this trend of environmental destruction continues, Sarawak's forests will soon be gone – and this at a time when it is becoming increasingly clear how important forests are to mitigating climate change.

The habitat of orangutans and proboscis monkeys is at stake, as are the livelihoods of the local indigenous peoples. The indigenous Penan and Iban want to protect their ancestral forests against powerful business interests. Numerous companies are intruding on their land, clearing it and establishing pulp or oil palm plantations.

Local activists have drawn up a list of more than 100 palm oil companies that are said to be involved in land conflicts over environmental degradation. The state government is further aggravating the situation by curtailing indigenous peoples’ traditional land rights.

We call on you to respect the rights of indigenous people and keep their forests safe.

Yours faithfully,