Forest lawlessness

Feature story - February 3, 2004
When a big, bad transnational corporation is ripping the heart out of the world's last remaining ancient forests, it's no surprise that corruption, payoffs, torture and abuse of human rights are all part of the package. But global conglomerate Rimbunan Hijau of Malaysia may be one of the worst examples of how greed drives the destruction of human communities and the forests they depend upon.

The Untouchables, an international report exposing multinational Rimbunan Hijau as the major player in this global forest crime.

The global trade in illegal and destructively logged timber is now out of control. Unlawful access to forest resources, environmental damage and forest destruction, human rights abuses and social dislocation of forest-dwelling peoples in some of the poorest areas of the world are being fuelled by those who buy timber and timber products from illegal sources.

Twenty percent of the Earth's original forest cover remains as large intact areas, with more than a third of these under threat. Industrial-scale logging poses the single largest menace to the forests' survival. Across the globe, transnational corporations continue to operate destructively, and often outside of the law, as they harvest the world's last remaining accessible forest resources.

Greenpeace has launched ' The Untouchables', an international report to expose Rimbunan Hijau as one of the major players in this global forest crime.

Rimbunan Hijau dominates the logging industry in Papua New Guinea and is a powerful industry player in Malaysia and Equatorial Guinea. It also has significant logging interests in Gabon, Cameroon, Indonesia, Vanuatu, New Zealand, Brazil and Russia.

Rimbunan Hijau's illegal timber and timber products are being traded across-the-counter in Asia, America, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Rimbunan Hijau operations are often characterised by a blatant disregard for the law with documented illegalities in many aspects of their operations. Rimbunan Hijau is impervious to criticism and seems to be protected by an extensive and well-established network of political patronage.

The report documents allegations made against Rimbunan Hijau in Papua New Guinea which include:

  • people being forced to sign agreements under duress and gunpoint
  • use of armed company managers and police officers to threaten and intimidate
  • torture, physical abuse and unlawful detention of local people by police officers 'employed' by the logging company
  • rape of female employees by logging company managers and police
Rimbunan Hijau is a transnational corporation that represents everything that is wrong with the way in which we are dealing with forest resources. Rimbunan Hijau presents the perfect test against which to judge the resolve of the international community to deal effectively with the problems of forest crime and the trade in illegal timber.

Greenpeace calls on the international community to take up the challenge at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Malaysia next week and match the global rhetoric with effective action.

More information

Read the full report.

Check out the live weblog from the Rainbow Warrior, on forest patrol in Indonesia.

Check out the live weblog from the Arctic Sunrise, on forest patrol in Patagonia.

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