Lest We Forget

DOWN MEMORY LANE WITH BORNEO BULLETIN ARCHIVES

Compiled by Marilyn B

Guardians of precious gaharu

Achong Tanjong

August 14, 2010 – They leave their families at home as their work demands that they spend a few days or even weeks in the thick jungle with only the moon to light up their nights. They are stationed in remote areas along the country’s borders, which are the frontline in the battle against illegal joggers and ‘gaharu’ poachers.

Wearing forest-green uniforms and carrying weapons, they are Brunei’s Police Rangers whose main mission is to ensure that the virgin forests, which contain precious timber and gaharu, are not plundered by illegal loggers and poachers.

The Police Rangers’ patrols cover the border areas in remote places, forest reserves, coastline and rivers. To protect such a large area, the Police Rangers join forces with the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, Royal Brunei Police Force, Forestry Department, Survey Department and Land Department. One of their joint operations is called ‘SALIMBADA’ which targets areas along the border with the neighbouring Malaysian state of Sarawak, where illegal logging and gaharu poaching usually take place.

Police Rangers have base camps in strategic areas. To travel to these camps, they fly with the Royal Brunei Air Force, said Senior Inspector Rosli Haji Tuming. They also use boats to reach places inaccessible by vehicles.

According to statistics from the Forestry Department, Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, a total of 63 cases of gaharu poaching were reported from 2000 to 2009. Of the total, six cases were reported in 2000, nine in 2001, eight in 2002, seven in 2003, four in 2004, three in 2005, eight 2006, six in 2007, four in 2008 and eight in 2009.

RBAF helicopter ready to fly Police Rangers to a remote area during the operation. PHOTOS: SECRETARIAT SALIIMBADA OPERATION
Gaharu tree cut down by poachers

The department’s data showed that 100 suspects were arrested for gaharu poaching from 2000-2009, while the overall estimated loss from illegal logging cases amounted to BND741,093.67.

In the early 90s, the government decided to establish specific force to protect and patrol remote areas, forest reserve coastline, rivers and border areas. The Police Rangers were officially formed in 2000 with a first intake of 159 personnel completing basic training at a Police Training Centre in Gadong.

Currently, there are three officers and more than 300 rank and file members in the Police Rangers. They are targetting to have about 500 personnel. They have stations and basecamps in all four districts of the country.

Police Rangers’ statistics show that they arrested suspects from 2000-2008 which included ‘kayu gaharu’ poachers, illegal loggers, smugglers of contraband livestock and other cases such as illegal immigrants and drug abusers.

According to Senior Inspector Rosli, many people are still unaware of the Police Rangers, mainly because “we appear in public places (but instead work) mostly in areas in the jungles along the borders and coastline”.

Their duties include providing additional security (escort) to government agencies in protecting VVIPS as well as providing support in search and rescue operations.

Commanding Officer of RUC Company (Police Rangers) Superintendent Pengiran Haji Zamani bin Pengiran Haji Ahmed said that the illegal activities were mainly driven by socio-economic factors and the encouraging demand for timber and gaharu.

“We are in the process of building another four camps to beef up our enforcement teams and we are also given the task of patrolling Brunei’s coastal areas from Sungai Tujuh in Belait, Tutong, Jerudong and up to Brunei-Muara District.”

The patrols are to ensure that no smugglers come into the country from the sea or rivers. Their patrol areas include Kuala Lurah, Junjungan and Kampong Bebuloh. He urged the local community, especially those in remote area, including longhouse residents, to cooperate in giving information if they come across “suspicious” people, especially foreigners.