Indigenous communities from Sarawak have made an impassioned plea to King Charles asking for the head of the Commonwealth to lend his support to their campaign to end rainforest destruction.
On a visit to the UK last month, community representatives argued that — as the third largest importer of Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme-certified timber — the UK has the power and responsibility to eliminate destructive timber from Malaysia from its supply chain.
During the visit, representatives from Sarawak civil society organisations Save Rivers and Keruan led a procession to Buckingham Palace to deliver the letter asking King Charles to lend his support. While Charles cannot influence legislative reform, communities are asking for his symbolic backing of their indigenous-managed protected forest: the Upper Baram forest area.
The letter was signed by four groups of communities of the Baram River basin, and reads:
“We are writing from the Baram area, our home in the rainforest. The reason for us to send this letter to the other side of the world is very serious: our communities are suffering from the destruction of the rainforest. We learnt that some of this timber reaches your home, the UK.”
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The letter also extends an invitation to King Charles to visit the Upper Baram forest area (colloquially known as the Baram Peace Park), writing “we would like to invite you to visit our area and experience the richness of our forest and the impacts of the forest loss yourself”.
“If Charles III were to lend his support to the peace park it would send a strong message that he is committed to conservation efforts around the Commonwealth for the sake of our shared humanity,” Celine Lim, director of Save Rivers and a member of the delegation, said.
King Charles has a strong legacy of environmental work and is well aware of the dangers of deforestation. When the UK hosted the COP26 climate summit in 2021, he gave the opening speech, saying that “time has quite literally run out” on climate change.
On this point, the letter reads: “We may live on opposite sides of the globe but our reverence for the natural world is aligned and we feel a kinship with His Majesty.”
In a video message to King Charles from the field, local indigenous leader Pejau said: “As a farmer I can feel the changes of the climate and we cannot stay any longer in the farm due to the hot temperature and high humidity. The season cycle has changed drastically. We ask your help, Your Highness, to listen to our grievances and do something to combat this climate crisis.”
The communities of the Baram await a response from the palace. – bruno manser fonds/Save Rivers/The Borneo Project