The New York Times has an interesting profile of former BBC journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown, a prominent voice in the struggle against deforestation in Malaysia. The daughter of a colonial era Malaysian police officer, Brown contributes to Radio Free Sarawak, a shortwave operation with an estimated ten thousand listeners.
“If you have a problem in your village or if someone is taking your land, logging, planting or polluting your area let your voice be heard and tell the world about it through Radio Free Sarawak!” RFS’s website advises.
Sarawak is a Malaysian governed state on the island of Borneo (Brunei and Indonesia control other portions of the land mass). The organization Global Witness says that the region has a higher deforestation rate than all other big timber producers in tropical areas. RFS has just released a radio report about Sarawak’s Murum Dam, which the group charges is being flooded ”far from the eyes of the outside world.”
The dispatch discusses:
“the desperate situation of the native Penan people of the area, who have been left hoping that the government will fulfil vague promises to provide them enough land for their next generation. The hunter gatherers have seen their entire forest flattened and they have been moved to a new longhouse in the centre of an oil palm plantation, where they can find no food. All the job opportunities have been given to foreign workers . . . “
Radio Free Sarawak is run by Christina Suntai and Peter John Jaban, two Iban speaking journalists and indigenous rights advocates. They aren’t the only deforestation activists in Southeast Asia. There is also Mam Sonando of Cambodia. Sonando’s Bee Hive radio outlet protests the huge timber land grabs being orchestrated by Cambodian government top brass. Bee Hive, situated in Phnom Penh, broadcasts at 105 FM. Cambodian courts released Sonando from his third stretch in prison in March.
As for Radio Free Sarawak, if you’ve got a shortwave receiver, you can tune in via the frequency 15420 kHz between 7 and 8.30 pm Borneo time, which is situated in the West Indonesia time zone—or just follow and download the radio posts on the site.