From: Associated Press
Published October 27, 2006 12:00 AM

Malaysia's Rights Watchdog Urges Financial Help for Penan tribe

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia's human rights watchdog has urged the government to give financial aid to some 4,000 Penan tribespeople on Borneo island where logging and other activities are threatening their survival, a news report said Friday.

Some 40 families live in deplorable conditions in a hamlet in a remote district of Sarawak state and have no access to basic amenities such as electricity and water, said Denison Jayasooria, a commissioner with the government-backed Human Rights Commission.

He told the national news agency Bernama that several members of the commission made the discovery during a visit last month to the Penan longhouses, large communal homes on stilts where several families live together.

The Penans, among the last people on earth living exclusively from hunting and gathering, have been marginalized for decades and their survival is under threat as the state government continues to award forest land to companies for logging, palm oil plantations and reforestation, he said.

The Penan live in small settlements in the mountains of northeastern Sarawak, Malaysia's largest section of Borneo, which it shares with Indonesia and Brunei. Sarawak sits next to Malaysia's Sabah state.

They hunt wild pigs and deer with spears and blowguns, and pick wild fruit. Some 300 live still more primitively, keeping on the move as forest nomads.

The Malaysian government says it wants to bring them into the mainstream, offering them homes with running water, schools and work.

Source: Associated Press

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