Bruno Manser Fund, Basel/Switzerland
15 September 2008
Serious charges against Malaysian companies Interhill and Samling related to sexual violence – Malaysian government asked to open a formal enquiry on offences
Penan women from the Middle Baram area of Sarawak are launching a cry of alarm to the international community over cases of sexual abuse by logging company workers in the East Malaysian state’s rainforests.
The Penan are accusing workers from Interhill and Samling, two Malaysian logging companies, of harassing and raping Penan women, including schoolgirls. “I want to make it known that we are being sexually abused by the timber company workers on a regular basis”, a Penan woman from Sarawak’s Middle Baram region said.
According to research undertaken by the Bruno Manser Fund, the perpetrators are frequenting several Penan settlements in the Middle Baram, looking for women. The company workers are based in logging camps in the region and are usually drunk when they arrive at the villages. “When we hear their off-road vehicles coming, we just leave everything as it is and flee into the forest”, the Penan source said. “They come on an almost weekly basis, but the situation is worst during the school holidays when they know the students are in the villages.” In other cases, school transports operated by company vehicles had been arranged in such a way that schoolgirls had to stay overnight at a logging camp, where they were abused.
The Penan communities are reporting several cases of pregnancy as a consequence of abuse by company workers. They also accuse the loggers of using armed “gangsters” to intimidate them and of handing out alcohol to the young Penan. Complaints by the Penan to those in charge of the logging camps and to the Police have so far had no effect.
The Bruno Manser Fund is asking the Malaysian government to start a formal enquiry into these serious criminal offences. In particular, the government is being asked to ensure that the victims are protected and that the harassment of Penan women by company workers is brought to an end immediately.
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