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.
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?
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:
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:
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[…]
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.