Malaysia: AIPP Statement of Support for the Baram peoples

July 14, 2015
Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia

The Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) express our strong support for the Baram peoples in their continuing struggle to stop the construction of the Baram dam. We are encouraged by the determination and resilience exhibited by the indigenous communities who have guarded the blockade site already for more than 630 days. The blockade was set up on October 23, 2013 to stop the dam proponents from pushing through with the preparatory work for the dam construction. We are impressed that the people have been able to sustain the blockade for this long, given the difficult conditions at the blockade site. This shows that the indigenous peoples are fully determined to do everything they can to defend their land, resources and cultural identity for the sake of future generations.

The blockade started in response to the plan of the Sarawak Government and the state-owned company, Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) to build the Baram Dam as part of at least twelve (12) large-scale hydroelectric dams through the industrial development initiative called the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE). These hydropower projects will not benefit the people. Instead the electric power to be generated will be exported to neighboring Brunei and Indonesia, and will supply the power needs of resource-intensive industries, including steel, aluminum, silicon and timber processing. The dams threaten to inundate an area of more than 2,100 square kilometers. The construction of the Baram dam alone will displace twenty-six (26) villages of Kenyah, Kayan and Penan indigenous peoples and will submerge forests, cultivated areas, and villages, forcibly displacing as many as 20,000 indigenous people from their customary lands.

The sorry experience with three previously built large dams in Sarawak – the Batang Ai, Bakun and Murum dams – is concrete proof of the serious adverse impacts of large dams on indigenous peoples and local communities. Thousands of indigenous peoples were displaced and numerous human rights violations were committed as seen in the substandard living conditions at the resettlement sites, unfulfilled promises of livelihood support for the displaced families, the denial of peoples’ rights to access information and the use of coercion, threats and intimidation against those who raised questions or objections to the dam projects.

We salute the Baram indigenous peoples in their valiant struggle to stop the dam. We reiterate that indigenous peoples have the right to participate fully and effectively in decision-making processes affecting them. We call on the Sarawak government and the SEB to respect the rights of the indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent in relation to the planned hydropower projects in Sarawak. They should respect the Native Customary Rights to land of the indigenous communities, which are recognized under the Federal Constitution of Malaysia and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

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