An internal document from Sarawak’s logging giant, Samling Global (HKEX 3938), leaked to the Bruno Manser Fund, acknowledges for the first time that the timber group is concerned about the involvement of its staff in the alleged rape of native Penan girls and women in Sarawak, East Malaysia.
By Bruno Manser Fonds
On 9 July 2010, Chin That Thong, General Manager of Samling’s Forest Operations in Malaysia, sent a directive, entitled “Kes Rogol Wanita Penan” (Rape Case of Penan Women)”, to all Samling timber camp managers, drivers and employees in the Baram river region. The letter informs the logging group’s staff that they are “forbidden to visit any Penan villages or transport any Penan except with the permission of the Camp Managers concerned.” Chin threatens employees who are found to have disobeyed his orders with expulsion from their jobs without compensation.
The letter was sent three days after the Malaysian Penan Support Group published a study that unearthed systematic patterns of sexual violence by loggers against native women in Sarawak’s interior. While Samling had previously denied the involvement of its staff in the sexual abuse cases, this letter indirectly acknowledges that Samling staff are indeed involved and that the group management is concerned over their insufficient control of their employees’ conduct. Ten days ago, Penan from the Upper Baram region complained that Samling officials had threatened to suspend all the transport services provided for them unless they retracted the sexual abuse allegations.
The leaked document provides strong evidence of the fact that the presence of Samling staff in the Penan areas constitutes a continuous threat to the native communities, and particularly to girls and women. The Bruno Manser Fund is asking the Sarawak state government to halt all logging operations in areas where Samling and other companies operate without the consent of the local communities. The Sarawak government is also being asked to provide free public transport services for the rural communities and, in particular, for schoolchildren.
Samling is a globally operating Malaysian timber conglomerate with an annual turnover of US$ 480 million. In August 2010, the Norwegian Government Pension fund excluded Samling from its portfolio because of the company’s responsibility for illegal logging and severe environmental damage.