Environment

Tokyo 2020 Olympics Implicated in Rainforest Destruction for Japan's New National Stadium

As Japan prepares for the games, indigenous Malaysians suffer the destruction of their homeland.

Constructing the stands of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Stadium.
Photo Credit: Ned Snowman/Shutterstock

On the anniversary of the first Tokyo Olympics, Matu Tugang, headman of the Indigenous Penan community of Long Jaik from Sarawak, Malaysia, delivered an urgent plea to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to stop Japan’s use of wood from a company that is destroying their forests and their livelihoods.

Japan has been using tropical timber from Sarawak to construct the New National Stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Evidence gathered at the Stadium construction site by NGOs in April 2017 confirmed the use of plywood supplied by Shin Yang, a company that has been logging in the area of Long Jaik for almost two decades and has previously been implicated in illegal logging, rainforest destruction and human rights abuses.

The community of Long Jaik has been fighting with blockades to protect their forests against Shin Yang’s logging and conversion to oil palm plantations. The community has an ongoing lawsuit against Shin Yang for violating their customary rights, but this has failed to stop Shin Yang from intruding onto the community’s land.

In a last attempt to save their remaining forests, the headman is turning to Shin Yang’s buyers in Japan and asking the Japanese Prime Minister to intervene:

"Dear Prime Minister of Japan, please, make sure Japan does not accept wood that Shin Yang has stolen from us. As long as Japan continues to accept this wood, Shin Yang will continue logging our forests and extracting logs daily."

In the letter, headman Tugang bears witness to Shin Yang’s destructive logging practices and the company’s disregard for the community’s right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent:

"Shin Yang has been logging very aggressively in the area of our village. When their tractors extract a log, they just bulldoze everything around... Shin Yang has been logging our ancestral forests without our permission or consent. They have never asked us for our opinion or needs."

The Malaysian Human Rights Commission investigated the community’s plight in 2007 and found Shin Yang’s practices were driving the community further into poverty.

The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo Olympic authorities have been the subject of relentless criticism from an international coalition of civil society organizations who have been critical of Tokyo 2020’s poor timber sourcing standards and lack of transparency in their timber supply chain. Despite repeated demands to disclose the origin of the timber in use for the Olympics and to end the use of Shin Yang wood and other high-risk timber, authorities have failed to respond to NGO concerns.

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Annina Aeberli leads campaigns for the Bruno Manser Fund, which campaigns for the conservation of tropical rainforests and the rights of rainforest dwellers in Malaysia.

Hana Heineken is Senior Adviser at Rainforest Action Network.