Timber giant Samling enters forest earmarked for conservation, satellite images show

Logging company Samling extracts timber near culturally important site - Penan communities outraged

(LONG AJENG / BARAM / SARAWAK) Logging company Samling is currently extracting timber from an area earmarked for community-led conservation and community development under the Upper Baram Forest Area (UBFA). The analysis of the most recent satellite images from Northern Sarawak by the Bruno Manser Fund reveals that Samling has entered two sensitive areas — one slated to be protected as primary forest and another area zoned for community agricultural use — without the approval of the local Penan communities.

In 2021, Samling started building logging roads and extracting timber in the territory of the Penan communities of Long Ajeng, Long Lamam and Long Murung in the Upper Baram river basin. Consequently, the affected Penan communities lodged a police report and set up a blockade to stop Samling from entering their forest. Samling, however, has only continued to log against the wishes of the community. The most recent analysis of satellite images reveal that Samling encroached even further into the area of the Bateu Siman mountain in May and June. This area is culturally sensitive for the local indigenous communities.

Komeok Joe, head of the Penan organization KERUAN, explained the Penan’s outrage about the logging in the area: “The Bateu Siman is the site of an important legend of the Penan. The forest in the area serves as our supermarket, bank and hospital. It is our source of life. The Penan have been working very hard to protect these last primary forests in the Upper Baram and thought that they are finally being protected under the Upper Baram Forest Area. We are very disappointed that Samling still does not respect our land, culture and our rights. We are tired of fighting, but we will never give up our forest. Without the forest, we cannot survive” (read the myth of the Bateu Siman below).

The headmen from the three Penan villages went to Miri last week to consult their lawyer and file another police report. They reported that over 1000 trees have already been extracted. Jawa Nyipa, headman of Long Ajeng, criticized the lack of community consent: "We never gave Samling an entry authorisation. Many times, we asked them to stop working in our area. Samling did not listen to a single word from us and has been taking timber from our land up until now. Now we ask them one last time to stop and we want compensation for the damage they have done on our land."

The Myth of Batu Siman and Batu Lawi
As documented on the community map of Long Ajeng, Long Lamam, Long Murung, Ba Mubui and Ba Sebateu.

Batu Siman is a tall rock visible from every direction. It stands tall near the banks of the Baram. Batu Siman consists of three figures: on the left is a woman, in the middle is her husband, and on the right is the husband’s brother. In the old days those three figures were equal in height. And then there is Batu Lawi, which, in the old days, was similar to Batu Siman. It stands tall in the headwaters of the Brunei, as we Penans call it, or as the foreigners say, Limbang River. Its two figures were equally tall; the left one was a woman, and beside her stood her husband.

Batu Lawi looked at Batu Siman with displeasure, for it was not only tall, but had three figures. So Batu Lawi went to war against Batu Siman. Batu Siman repelled the assault, and attacked Batu Lawi in turn. The battle went on for a long time. Batu Siman was about to lose, when his brother stood up and came to his aid. Because of this help, Batu Siman was able to sever the head of Batu Lawi’s wife. The death of his wife made Batu Lawi angry, and later on he decided to avenge her. He grasped his machete and took up his shield, and called on the spirits of the storm clouds and the rain to darken the sky. The day was soon like night, and he went forth and killed the wife of Batu Siman. So both wives were now dead; and that is why the female figures of both rocks are shorter than the male figures. So the story ends, and even today serves as a lesson to foolish people who avenge evil by doing new evil. In the end nothing is gained.

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