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300 Km Long March Against Rare Earths Refinery in Malaysia

On November 13, 2012, the Malaysian High Court lifted a two-month suspension of a license granted to Australian rare earths mining company, Lynas Corporation, to operate a rare earth refinery in Pahang, Malaysia. Alerted by the devastating pollution [zh] of rare earth refineries in China, Malaysian environment groups have been struggling to stop the project. One of the activists, Wong Tack started a 300 km march, dubbed “the Green Walk”, from Kuantan to the Parliament in Kuala Lumpur on November and many decided to follow him.

Below is the map showing the Green Walk Route.

The 300Km Long March Map. From Facebook Page Himpunan Hijau 2.0

Activists keep updating their action on the Facebook Page Himpunan Hijau 2.0. Before the march began on November 13, the activists reminded people about Gandhi's Salt March in 1930 against the British Empire:

If Gandhi is here in Malaysia today, will he not lead the Green Walk from Kuantan to the Parliament to overthrow the Australian toxic colonialists?

The long march has begun on November 13, 2012. Photo from Facebook Page Himpunan Hijau 2.0.

Chan Wei See a former editor of an online independent news Merdeka Review has joined the long march. She recorded [zh] her conversation with Wong Tack and other participants in her Facebook:

我在休息时段时跟黄德在木棚下聊了起来。他告诉我,当年从建筑系毕业的他选择到加拿大修读环保系,父亲没法理解他的选择,但他依然坚持自己的选择。毕业之后他留在加拿大发展,一晃就是15年。15年后他回到吉隆坡,为了给父亲一个交代,他在妹妹的建筑公司做建筑师,盖了几栋大楼之后,热爱自然环境的他实在没法在吉隆坡呆下去,于是飞到沙巴州做油棕园和有机农场,一呆就是五年,期间他一直领导反煤炭发电厂的工作,令当地政府和公司有所忌讳。他认为莱纳斯稀土厂、边佳兰石化厂、武吉公满山埃厂只是一些课题,要绿化环境需作长远的工作,因此他积极推广有机农场及有机生活的概念,希望能打造出一个热爱大自然的社会。

I talked to Wong Tack during the break. He told me that after he got his bachelor in architecture, he went to Canada to study environmental science. His father opposed his choice but he insisted. He worked in Canada for 15 years and then returned to Kuala Lumpur in respond to his father's request. He worked as an architect and built several buildings. However, he could not stand the life in Kuala Lumpur and decided to fly to Sabah to run a Palm Tree Plantation and organic farm. He has settled there for 5 years and has been leading a campaigner against the construction of coal electric plants. The local authorities and big corporates are unhappy about his presence. He believes that the Lynas rare earths refinery, Pengerang Petrochemical plant, and Bukit Koman Cyanide pollution are just some of the public incidents. Long term environmental protection relies on organic farming, change of lifestyles and culture.

During the march, Chan also talked to an aboriginal man from Sarawak:

来自巴南的他说,他的岳母来自巴贡上游,当年巴贡水坝计划迁移上游原住民时,他岳母种的三千多棵黄梨,政府只赔了145令吉。[...]

我从他口中获知,巴南水坝尚未开始兴建,他们打从一开始就拒绝谈赔偿,只专注于施压政府撤销水坝计划。由于水坝还未兴工,只要压力够大,他相信人民是可以成功的,因此他来到了这里,走这十四天的路程,希望能带出原住民的心声。

He came from Baram and his mother-in-law came from the upper stream of Bakun river. To prepare for the Bakun hydroelectricity dam, the government has forcibly relocated the aboriginals. His mother-in-law had planted more than 3000 pear trees in her life and the government only offered her 145 Ringgits as compensation […]

He told me that the construction of the dam has not started yet and they have been opposed to the project from day one and thus refused to talk about compensation. They want to pressure the government to stop the project. He believes that once the people stick together, they will be successful. He joined the march to voice the aboriginal people's demands.

Johor Yellow Fame from Facebook also shared [zh] his feeling in his status:

马来西亚人民有比别人践吗?是这样吗?为什么当权者会枉故人民性命,双手欢迎山埃采金、莱纳斯稀土厂、边加兰的高污染石化厂?甚至要在砂拉越建多个和新加坡一样大小的水坝而把当地原住民赶尽杀绝?[...]

振奋人心的是,今天,JYF柔南黄色行动小组成员成钢、秀君、凯聪前来支持,并全程陪伴大队同行。除此,今天也看到了各路英雄陆续加入步行队伍。一路上,无法参与步行的村名在旁为大家加油喝彩,有者更慷慨地主动提供住宿场所、食物、药品、水,和支援,让我感动不已,我定把这些勇士铭记于心。

The life of Malaysians is cheaper than others? Is that so? How can the ruling elites pay no regard to our lives and open our land to Cyanide gold mining, Lynas rare earths refinery and the highly polluted Pengerang Petrochemical plant? They even want to get ride of the aboriginal people in Sarawak by building a mega dam that occupy an area as big as Singapore[…]

Mama Bersih distributed pamphlets about the Green Walk in downtown Kuala Lumpur. Image from Facebook User: Elaine.

It is encouraging that today JYF action group members have come to show their support and walked with the team. So many people have joined in. For those who could not join the long march, they were clapping and cheering on the way, some villagers have offered accommodation, food, medicine, water and other supplies to us. I will always remember their kindness.

Those who cannot join the march, campaign against the rare earths refinery in their own way. For example, Mama Bersih, a women's organization, decided to help spread the news about the Green Walk by distributing pamphlets in downtown Kuala Lumpur.

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