Press Release: As Impoundment Begins, 100 Indigenous Penan Blockade Destructive Dam in Borneo

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September 26, 2013

Murum, Sawarak, Malaysian Borneo: Over 100 Penan leaders are blockading traffic in a last-ditch effort to get the government and the state owned-power company, Sarawak Energy Berhad, to respect their rights and provide appropriate compensation for the loss of their lands and homes. Carrying signs, and with food and bedding, they have taken over the only road to and from the dam site and are not allowing any traffic through. This dam, one of 12 mega dams planned across the region, will drown over 2,750 sq, kilometers of forest and traditionally owned land.

This is the second blockade that the Penan of the Murum area have erected; the first blockade was in September 2012 when the Penan of Long Wat village held a blockade that delayed construction of the dam for over a month. Sarawak Energy promised the Penan compensation and prime land for relocation, but failed to deliver on their promises. Instead, they are relocating the Penan to swampy areas that are unable to support their traditional agricultural practices and way of life.

Just before impoundment began earlier this month, the longhouse of Long Wat village was burned by Sarawak Energy workers. Details are still forthcoming, yet it appears that this case of arson was committed without the knowledge of the villagers.

“The world needs to stand up and take action against such rampant abuse of power,” said Jettie Word, director of the Borneo Project. “The plight of the Penan is a fundamental example of corporate greed steamrolling human rights.”

According to SAVE-Rivers, the statewide network of anti-dam activists, the Penan are demanding RM 50,000 per family (about US $15,500), as well as 25 hectares of land, a 10% share in the profits from the Murum Dam, as well as full compensation for their lost land and resources.

The Murum Dam is one of 12 mega dams slated to be built in Malaysian Borneo by 2020. The dam will produce 944 MW of energy, energy that currently has no purchasers or identified demand. On-the-ground efforts, such as SAVE-Rivers, work to coordinate indigenous-led resistance against dam expansion and massive resettlement.

About The Borneo Project – For over twenty years, the Borneo Project has worked with indigenous communities to protect the rainforest and support fights for land rights. Learn more at

Press Release Contact

Jettie Word
Director, The Borneo Project
Phone: 1.415.341.7051