KUALA LUMPUR, July 6 — Environmental and rights groups today condemned the arrest of an Orang Asli man who protested a logging company’s alleged encroachment into native customary land in Kampung Ganoh, Pahang.

The man was arrested on Tuesday for kicking the tyre of a car belonging to one of the company’s surveyors, according to Rimbawatch, a deforestation watchdog and one of the signatories that issued a statement calling for his release. The protester has been remanded since Tuesday and could be charged for criminal intimidation, the groups said.

The incident took place when the Orang Asli community in Kampung Ganoh had tried to block the surveyors from entering their land.

“RimbaWatch and the undersigned are disturbed by reports that a member of the Orang Asli community in Kg Ganoh, Pahang has been arrested during an invasion of their native customary territory by a logging company,” the groups said.

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“We are further shocked that the area proposed to be logged falls within a gazetted water catchment area.”

Locals said representatives of a logging company began visiting Kampung Ganoh in May, and that they had communicated their intention to log compartments 113 and 112 of the Bukit Ibam Forest Reserve.

RimbaWatch claimed the area proposed to be logged is located directly in a “Hutan Tadahan Air” (water catchment forest), citing the state’s Forest Management Plan 2016-2025 published by the Pahang Forestry Department.

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Cutting of trees or logging in these areas are banned under state and federal laws.

“RimbaWatch questions how the Pahang Forestry Department could approve a water catchment forest to be logged, to allow a company to make preparations for logging in a water catchment forest, and how Pahang authorities could arrest a member of an Indigenous community for defending their land against deforestation,” the group asked.

Malaysia is a signatory of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which enshrines the need for a free, prior, informed consent process for any projects in Indigenous lands.

Rimbawatch said under the 1961 Statement of Policy Regarding the Administration of the Orang Asli of Peninsular Malaysia, which is still in force, the Orang Asli communities are guaranteed the right to approve or reject any form of activities on their land.

Despite the existence of laws to safeguard native customary land, they continued to be encroached upon by loggers and powerful plantation companies until this day. Researchers believe this problem stems from land and forestry matters coming under the constitutional purview of individual state governments.

Rimbawatch has also urged the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate, suggesting possible corruption since the planned logging in the Kampung Ganoh falls under a protected area.