One tribe’s war against corporate greed: How the Penan people of Borneo are fighting to preserve their forest against the loggers
With the loss of their land, the Penan fear they will lose their independence
In the damp, lush and humid rainforest of northern Sarawak, on Borneo, the indigenous Penan tribe who have lived on the island for centuries fight a daily battle against the logging juggernauts who want to raze their homes to the ground.
Living off the land and in tune with their natural environment, 12,000 of the hunter-gatherer Penan remain – some living nomadically, relying on the forest for their existence.
Having suffered decades of logging, plantation developments, massive dams and a government who have not protected their rights, the decimated Penan have finally decided to stand-up to the corporate giants by banding together to stand firm – and they have finally received recognition.
In October, Malaysia’s highest court, the Federal court passed down a ruling that the Penan who live in the Long Lamai region have a right to legally claim land as theirs, complete with protection from loggers or dam builders.
With veteran Malaysian land rights lawyer and politician Baru Bian representing them, the Penan are fighting against the logging firm Samling Global, who currently have the legal rights to the land.
It will mark the first time the Sarawak state government has to recognize the Penan’s rights to their land and mark the culmination of four-years of work since 18 Penan villages banded together to form the ‘Penan Peace Park’.