Attempt to Expel Indigenous Peoples from Proposed Baram Dam Site Denounced By Human Rights Groups


by JOAS, SUARAM and International Rivers –

Date of publication: 
24 October 2014

Government and Companies Complicit in Violating Freedom of Assembly and Land Rights

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysian and international human rights organizations have united to publicly condemn the actions taken by authorities and logging company representatives to intimidate Indigenous Peoples in Sarawak at the proposed site of the Baram Dam. On 21 October, coercive action was taken by police from the General Operation Force (GOF), Forest Department officers and personnel representing logging interests from the company MM Golden to pressure residents of Long Kesseh to abandon their customary lands and disperse from the site, where they had set up a barricade. As a result of the violation of rights outlined in the national constitution and provisions of the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples, an urgent appeal was submitted on 22 October to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz. The appeal calls on her to raise concerns with the Government of Malaysia about the actions taken to forcefully dismantle the barricade, which had been set up one year ago by local residents of Long Kesseh to assert their native customary rights (NCR) to land being allocated against their will for the Baram Dam site.

Exactly one year ago, on 23 October 2013, the people of Long Kesseh set up a barricade on an area of native customary land that would be submerged if the 1200MW Baram Hydroelectric Project is built as proposed by Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB). If this dam is completed, it would inundate 26 villages, including Long Kesseh, flooding 400 square kilometers of land and displacing between 6000 to 20,000 people. In response to SEB’s efforts to begin preparatory work for the Baram Dam, residents of Long Kesseh and surrounding areas symbolically marked their defiance by building a barricade on their own land.

The members of longhouses to be affected by the Baram Dam, including Long Kesseh, have never given consent for any timber clearance or other preparatory project works to proceed on customary lands. Yet, agents working with M. M. Golden Sdn. Bhd. are claiming the land is part of a concession they were granted. Although the circumstances related to the issuing of their logging permit remain ambiguous, the company has become associated Sarawak Energy Berhad’s efforts to clear timber around the Baram River and help pave the way for the construction of the proposed Baram Hydroelectric Project.

Serene Lim of the national human rights group, SUARAM, explained, “Villagers in Baram are defending their customary property rights; they have not granted free, prior and informed consent for their land to be taken by the government or any private firm. That is why the people of Long Kesseh continue to affirm their rights to the area, and why they decided to rebuild the barricade.” She added, “It is unacceptable that the authorities are evidently backing M.M. Golden’s incursion onto native customary lands, while completely disregarding clear legal provisions and precedents protecting the rights of original landholders. Given the complicity of government authorities along with agents hired by logging and energy companies in violating fundamental human rights, we decided to bring this case to the attention of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

According to Thomas Jalong, a resident of Baram and President of the National Indigenous Peoples’ Network, Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS), “Sarawak Energy needs access to the area currently being defended by the villagers if they are to proceed with the proposed Baram Dam. Despite the fact that no social or environmental impact assessments for the proposed dam appear to have been approved, SEB is ready to jump into preparatory work. This confrontation at Long Kesseh is appears to have the direct aim of opening up grounds for the Baram Dam to proceed. However, the personnel involved have failed to intimidate the villagers into surrendering their land so that it could first be stripped of timber and then subsumed by a dam.”

“We are calling on M.M. Golden, SEB and the Government of Sarawak to respect the native customary rights land designation and the rights of Indigenous Peoples to free, prior and informed consent,” said Tanya Lee of International Rivers. “As a matter of urgency, government authorities, companies and financiers must accept the fact that the Kayan, Kenyah and Penan People of Baram have expressed their widespread opposition to the Baram Dam and to further logging on their land. Upholding national and international law along with industry best practices would mean withdrawing from the area and immediately returning any land already acquired for the purposes of the Baram Dam to the rightful landholders. ”


The press release can be downloaded here –

Media contacts:
Sze Ning, Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia | Tel : +60-12-606-1592 | Email: szening [at] gmail [dot] com

Serene Lim, SUARAM | Tel: +60-12-547-7989 | Email: monitoring [at] suaram [dot] net

Tanya Lee, International Rivers| Tel: +60-19-438-0539 | E-mail: tlee [at] internationalrivers [dot] org


Malaysia: Baram Dam blockade at KM15 dismantled by authorities, new barricade set up hours later by protesters

Press Statement issued by: Mark Bujang, Secretary, SAVE Rivers

21 October 2014

BARAM: The Baram Dam blockade which was erected nearly a year ago by the indigenous communities who are against the proposed Baram Hydroelectric Power (HEP) Dam Project at KM15 Jalan Samling, Baram was dismantled by the police, Forestry Department officers and loggers this morning. However, the loggers access to the site was short-lived as the protesters put up a new barricade hours later.

According to Johannes Luhat, one of the protesters who is manning the KM15 camp blockade site, about 50 police General Operation Force (GOF) personnel, 10 Forestry Department officers and a handful of loggers from the logging company M. M. Golden and/or Autorich Sdn. Bhd. came up to the barricade that the protesters set up near the junction going into Long Kesseh village at KM15 and proceeded to dismantle it.

Hearing the news that the barricade was dismantled, the protesters who are at KM15 camp when down to the site to confront the police, Forestry Department and the loggers to stop them from entering the site.

“When we arrived at the site, we asked them who authorised them to dismantle the blockade, since the area is still under dispute and no court order was made to order us to lift our blockade”, said Johannes.

“One Forestry Department officer by the name of Asan Udau told us that we were breaking the law by setting up the barricade to stop the company from entering the site and to extract the timber.

“We told the Forestry Department officer that the company is actually logging on native customary land belonging to the villages of Na’ah and Long Kesseh and doing it illegally as they have yet to conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIA) study of the area, which was previously logged before. Furthermore, villagers from Na’ah and Long Kesseh are against the said logging activities”, said Johannes.

The protesters told the Forestry Department officer that a police report and a report to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had been lodged against the illegal logging activities of the company in July this year and they have yet to receive a response either from the police or MACC.

After much argument, the protesters managed to put up a fresh new barricade at the same site and told Forest Department officer to give them a 3 day grace period not to dismantle the new barricade, which the officer agreed.

As of 4.30pm today (21 Oct 2014) the new barricade is still standing. M. M. Golden Sdn. Bhd., a sub-contractor to Autorich Sdn. Bhd., is extracting timber on logged over forest on the native customary lands of the villagers of Na’ah and Long Kesseh for the purpose of clearing the area to make way for the construction of the proposed Baram HEP Dam.

We will update more as we get more information from the ground.

For more information you can contact me at markbujang [at] gmail [dot] com or +60148776685.


Sarawak natives turn to United Nations to stop Baram Dam

23 October 2014

MIRI: The plight of some 20,000 rural natives uprooted by the proposed Baram Dam project in interior northern Sarawak have been brought to the attention of the United Nations (UN).

Several human rights organisations at state and national level on Thursday sent an official letter to UN Special Rapporteur on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, after the authorities tried to dismantle a blockade.

The blockade was set up by the natives along an access road to Long Kesseh and Long Naah about 200kms inland from Miri City a year ago to stop the clearing of forests.

The letter was lodged by Save Sarawak Rivers, SUARAM and JOAS (Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia).

JOAS president Thomas Jalong told Star Online there was an urgent need for the UN to convince the Malaysian government to call on state leaders to stop the RM4bil project.

“An attempt was made (two days ago) by teams of enforcement officers from several state agencies to tear down the blockade.

“These attempts to dismantle the blockade are part of the move to start clearing the forests for the start of construction.

“They are about to start logging the forests to clear the timber before opening the entire area for construction.

“How can this be allowed when the environmental impact assessment and social impact assessment studies have not even been concluded?

“The rights of the Baram natives must be respected,” he said.

SUARAM’s coordinator Serene Lim said it was unjust to force the Baram natives out because the land belonged to them and their ancestors.

“The villagers are merely defending the land they had lived on for centuries.

“The Government must protect the interests and welfare of the indigenous people who are the original settlers,” she said adding that bringing the issue to the UN was a last resort.

The proposed dam, sited between Long Kesseh and Long Naah, is expected to uproot some 20,000 natives from at least 25 longhouses.

The dam project, meant to produce 1,000 MWs of electricity, will flood more than 30,000ha of forests – about half the size of Singapore.