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Malaysia

The Malaysian state of Sarawak is losing its rainforests faster than anywhere else on earth, driven by a timber industry riddled with corruption and illegality. En savoir plus

Put end to end, the sprawling network of logging roads carved into Sarawak’s once abundant rainforests would be long enough to circle the globe twice.

Until his resignation in February 2014, Sarawak’s Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud, presided over the allocation of the state’s land and timber licenses for thirty years. Global Witness’s undercover investigations revealed how Taib had been doling out these licenses to a small elite, while ignoring the customary land rights of forest-dependent communities. The logging of ancestral forests enriched Taib and his cronies with huge personal fortunes, while leaving much of the indigenous population trapped in a cycle of poverty and dependency.

Our 2014 Two Worlds Collide exposé revealed a key driver of Malaysia’s forest destruction: Japan’s timber consumption.  Japan is the world's second largest importer of tropical wood (after China), half of which comes from the rainforests of Sarawak. But evidence of widespread illegal and unsustainable logging in Sarawak’s logging industry abounds. We exposed how Sarawak logging company Shin Yang, one of Japan’s major timber suppliers, is involved in grossly unsustainable and potentially illegal logging, decimating over forty soccer pitches of virgin rainforest every day in a proposed national park. We are appealing to the Japanese authorities to prohibit the trade in illegal timber and for industry to adopt measures to exclude illegal and unsustainable timber from their supply chains.

Back in Sarawak, Chief Minister Taib’s successor, Adenan Satem, has made public statements about his commitments to fighting illegal logging and corruption in the forest sector, but it remains to be seen whether he has the will and clout to take on Sarawak’s powerful logging tycoons- a politically connected group whose timber empires now extend far beyond Sarawak. Jointly, Malaysian loggers like Shin Yang, Samling and Rimbunan Hijau have come to dominate the world’s tropical timber trade, stripping rainforests across continents.