New Borneo Project Documentary Exposes Impacts of Forced Relocation on Indigenous Communities


July 22, 2015

(Sarawak, Malaysia) The Borneo Project has released Broken Promises: Displaced by Dams, the third film in their series about the hydroelectric dams proposed for construction in Sarawak, Malaysia. Broken Promises tells the story of forced displacement of indigenous peoples to make way for these dams. Although the dams are being built on native land, indigenous communities have not been properly consulted and are being forcefully relocated from their communities. While the government promises full compensation, better schools, access to healthcare, housing, and adequate farmland, these promises are rarely, if ever, kept.

In the case of the Baram Dam, the next dam in line to be built, indigenous communities have been denied information, excluded from participation in studies and decision-making, and coerced into accepting the dam through threats and intimidation. They have thus been denied their rights to their lands, territories, and self-determination. In response, the people of Baram have actively protested the dam through rallies, conferences, and two blockades that have halted progress on the dam since October, 2013.

In Sarawak, human rights abuses regarding dam resettlement began long before the Baram Dam controversies. In 1998 the government of Sarawak relocated around 10,000 people to the resettlement area of Sungai Asap to make way for the Bakun Dam. Over fifteen years later these families are still struggling to make a living and Sungai Asap has been declared a resettlement disaster. People were required to pay for their own housing, which forced many families into debt. Each family was promised 10 acres of farmland but was only provided 3 acres, often a half-day’s journey away, and often on infertile, rocky land. The dam has polluted the river, poisoning their water source, spreading illness, and killing the fish they depend on for food and income. The resettlement site is surrounded by palm oil plantations and the people no longer have access to their former hunting grounds. Ironically adding insult to injury, the transmission lines carrying electricity from the Bakun Dam pass directly over Sungai Asap, but the relocated people cannot access the power for which they were displaced. Instead, they have government-managed diesel generators that are often locked because they are unable to afford the expensive costs of diesel.

“The race to accumulate wealth and money through mega-projects that only benefit the elite has led to a blatant disregard for human rights” said Jettie Word, Executive Director of The Borneo Project.

Broken Promises is released in conjunction with a rally organized at the town of Long Lama, near one of the blockades sites, where Chief Minister Adenan is launching a new bridge. Hundreds of protesters are expected to gather at the blockade site and cross the river to receive Adenan and make it clear that the people of Baram do not want the Baram Dam.

Broken Promises (10 min) can be viewed in English and Bahasa Malaysia:


Bahasa Malaysia: