Activists defy Malaysian state to defend indigenous forests
- Deep in the rainforests of northern Malaysia, anti-logging campaigns are trying to stop logging companies from entering forests they say belong to Orang Asli communities.
- Blockades are being set up in peninsular Malaysia’s northern state of Kelantan by groups that say logging activities are damaging forests and the surrounding environment.
- Kelantan has seen more forest clearing in recent years as the state ramps up tree plantation development.
Activist groups say forestry departments are granting forest access to logging companies, while restricting access to forest-dependent communities.
- Malaysian courts ruled recently that forests being targeted by logging companies belong to indigenous Orang Asli communities.
GUA MUSANG, Malaysia – In their fight for the rights of peninsular Malaysia’s native people, the Orang Asli, an alliance of women are making waves in the country’s highly conservative society as they support the efforts of communities and activists trying to stop logging of the region’s forests. The women represent a variety of fields and organizations and are speaking out and even risking arrest in their struggle for the forests and the communities that depend on them.
Mongabay joined them on a convoy deep into the rainforests of northern Malaysia’s Kelantan State to supply provisions to anti-logging campaigns, traveling by night to evade detection by State Forestry Department police. Here, the Temiar indigenous peoples are resisting deforestation by setting up road blockade camps in local forest reserves. By March 2017, three blockade camps had reportedly been torn down by forestry police, but the Temiar vowed to set up more.
The terrain was mountainous and the dirt logging trail had been regularly pounded by the heavy monsoon rains, making progress treacherous. The convoy passed Orang Asli villages along the road, punctuated with log piles and bulldozers at the trackside.
“If we see any of the big guys [elephants], turn off your engine and lights and wait for them to pass,” Karin Lee of PEKA (Preservation of Natural Heritage Organization) announced over the radio to the convoy.
Published on Mongabay.com