Suspected Arson Burns Greenpeace Camp in Indonesia
Suspected arson burned a Greenpeace “Climate Defenders Camp” on the Kampar Peninsula in Sumatra, Indonesia on Sunday. Though there were no injuries, the incident increases concerns over the safety of community members and conservation advocates as international criticism of Indonesian deforestation grows.
"If this act was meant to stop our efforts to protect rainforests in Indonesia, it will not succeed" said Rolf Skar, senior forest campaigner with Greenpeace. "This shocking incident underscores the need for companies that buy commodities like Indonesian palm oil and pulp and paper to stop doing business with forest destroyers and advocate for forest protection."
The Climate Defenders Camp was built in October 2009 to highlight the cost of forest destruction to the climate, local communities and wildlife. The Kampar Peninsula includes carbon-rich peat forests that are being drained and burned for palm oil and pulp and paper plantation expansion. Much of the deforestation of Indonesian peatlands is illegal.
Flames broke out in the early hours of Sunday morning and were first spotted by villages across the Kampar River in Teluk Meranti. The fire severely damaged key parts of the wooden complex, including the main hall and prayer sanctuary. Initial investigations by the local police indicate that the fire was set deliberately. Greenpeace has reported the case to Riau Province Police Headquarters, urging them to investigate the case and prevent further dangerous criminal acts.
The people of Teluk Meranti have been very supportive of the Greenpeace campaign and are organizing to reject the expansion of APRIL into the forests of the Kampar. "We need Greenpeace to help us protect the forest against the company because the company has everything - money, power, and political influence," said Pak Yusuf, a Teluk Meranti community leader.
The Kampar peninsula is one of the largest peatland areas in the world and is under threat of destruction from pulp-and paper companies Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL) and Asia Pulp & Paper (APP). The camp has been visited by a host of international guests, including U.S. ambassador to Indonesia and celebrities such as Inglorius Basterds star Melanie Laurent. In November the camp served as a base to expose illegal clearance of peatlands by APRIL. Not long thereafter, Minister of Forestry Zulkifli Hasan ordered APRIL to stop clearing practices in the area, while their permits where under investigation.
Greenpeace recently released a report, Caught Red-Handed (1), exposing the links between forest destruction and food and drink giant Nestle. The ensuing campaign has had tremendous internet exposure, with over a million online views of a campaign video and an uproar that incapacitated Nestle's Facebook page. "Companies like Nestle should understand that every day they drag their feet and fail to take meaningful action, our climate, rainforests, wildlife and local communities will continue to suffer," said Skar.
VVPR info: Contacts in US: Daniel Kessler: 510.501.1779 Rolf Skar, Senior Forest Campaigner: 415.533.2888 Contacts in Indonesia: Bustar Maitar, Southeast Asia Forest Campaigner, +62 81344666135 Hikmat Soeriatanuwijaya, Southeast Asia Media Campaigner, +62 818 930 271