Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Penan women from the Middle Baram area of Sarawak are launching a cry of alarm to the international community over cases of sexual abuse


The shocking report was released following a demonstration by the opposition party PKR's women's section outside the Malaysian Ministry for Women, Family and Community Development (Picture courtesy The Hornbill Unleashed)

One year after the Bruno Manser Fund launched a campaign against sexual abuse of indigenous Penan girls and women by logging company workers in the East Malaysian state of Sarawak, a Malaysian government report confirms the Penan’s allegations of sexual abuse by loggers.

According to the independent Malaysian news service, Malaysiakini, a hitherto confidential report by the Malaysian Ministry for Women, Family and Community Development lists at least eight cases of sexual abuse of Penan girls and women by logging company workers and says that several of the victims were schoolgirls as young as 10.

The report concludes that “allegations of sexual abuse of Penan girls and women by outsiders dealing with the Penan, including logging company workers and merchants, did indeed take place.” It quotes two rape victims as saying that it is a regular and common occurence for logging camp workers to sexually abuse girls who hitch rides to and from school.

The report said the girls’ vulnerability, widespread poverty and “dependency on the logging companies for transportation into towns, including sending and ferrying of children to and from school” were among the reasons for incidents of sexual abuse.

The report contains the results of an investigation conducted by the Malaysian ministry for Women, Family and Community Development in November 2008 and was released under growing pressure from civil society groups and the opposition. It contradicts statements by leading Sarawak politicians, including Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu, who had condemned the Bruno Manser Fund for publicizing the Penan’s allegations of sexual abuse.

On 15 September 2008, the Bruno Manser Fund had informed the public on allegations of Penan women that they were being sexually abused by employees of Samling and Interhill, two logging companies operating in Sarawak’s Middle Baram region. Both companies denied the allegations.

The Bruno Manser Fund welcomes the release of the report by the Minister for Women, Family and Community development. However, it is disturbing to note that it has taken the Malaysian government a full year to compile this report which apparently has not had any legal consequences for the perpetrators. It is high time that the responsibles of the crimes described in the report faced the legal consequences of their conduct. It would also seem appropriate that such a scandal should have political consequences at the state level.


Penan women are launching a cry of alarm to the international community over cases of sexual abuse


LATEST UPDATE 09 September 2009: Malaysian government report confirms: Loggers raped Penan girls and women


Following the publication of a BMF media release, the Malaysian media have reported extensively on the sexual abuse allegations by Penan women against employees of two logging companies. A file with media reports on the issue for download can be found at the bottom of this article. Meanwhile, the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM), the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and the Sarawak Police have announced that they will investigate the complaints. BMF welcomes these steps and calls for fair, independent and thorough probes. In particular, the victims' privacy and dignity should be protected.

(7 October 2008 / 20 October 2008)

Original BMF media release (15 September 2008)

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 to the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF).

According to research undertaken by BMF, 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.

(15 September 2008)

Contacts for e-mail protests (please send a copy to

1) Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations Office at Geneva,
Her Excellency Ambassador Dato’ Hsu King Bee:

2) Prime Minister of Malaysia,
Dato' Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi:

3) Royal Malaysian Police Headquarters:

4) Miri Resident (Representative of the Sarawak Chief Minister in the Miri Division),
Mr. Ose Murang:

5) Interhill Enterprise Sdn Bhd:

6) Samling Global Limited


Dear Ambassador (Prime Minister / Inspector-General of Police / Resident / Sir or Madam),

I am writing to express my concern about the recent reports of sexual
violence against Penan women in the Baram River region of Sarawak by
logging company workers.

I have the firm conviction that these perpetrations are grave human rights
violations that cannot be tolerated.

I kindly ask your government (company) to start a thorough enquiry into the issue
and to ensure that the victims are protected and that the harrassment of Penan women by logging company workers will come to an end immediately.

Yours faithfully

(Name / Place / Country / Date)


File with media reports on sexual abuse allegations for download (updated until 7 October 2008):

media_reports_sexual_violence.pdf (223KB)




NST Online » NewsBreak

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister dismisses claims by Bruno Manser Fund

Desmond Davidson

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu today dismissed the claims of a
Swiss non-governmental organisation Bruno Manser Fund that Penan women and girls
were being sexually abused by workers from two logging companies.

Jabu said unless the organisation was able to give specific details of their allegations, it would be a waste of time to investigate.

“Show proof. Tell us where and which Penan settlement.

“I have not heard of such complaints from the Penan communal leaders in my many
visits to ulu Baram,” Jabu, who is the chairman of the steering committee on the Penans, said after launching the Ops Sikap XVII campaign in the state at KM19 on the Kuching-Serian Road.

The BMF had posted the allegations on its website, claiming that the workers preyed on students who were back in the settlement during the school holidays.

It also claimed that the abuse had resulted in several pregnancies.
Jabu said if the NGO could provide some evidence, then the police could take action
against the alleged culprits.

He was also dismissive of BMF, labelling it as a “bunch of people who are nothing in their own country but like to sensationalise events outside their country”.