Missing Swiss activist presumed dead

Bruno Manser has been missing for a year now Keystone Archive

A Swiss environmental activist, Bruno Manser, who went missing in Borneo exactly one year ago, is unlikely to be alive, according to a Swiss journalist, who has been scouring the Malaysian jungle in a fruitless search for Manser.

This content was published on May 23, 2001 - 07:44

Manser's last known communication was a letter to a Swiss friend dated May 23, 2000. Since then, neither his relatives nor the "Bruno Manser Fund" have heard from him.

On Tuesday, he is being remembered with the planting of a tree in the centre of the Swiss capital, Bern.

But a Swiss journalist, Till Lincke, believes that Manser is dead, having failed to find any trace of him after scouring the Malaysian jungle. During numerous expeditions, he interviewed local people, all of whom say Manser is dead.

His family have refused to give up hope. His brother, Peter, told Lincke that "as long as his body has not been found, [I believe] he's alive".

Lincke, who works for the "Tages-Anzeiger" newspaper group, is continuing to gather information about Manser's disappearance, and says he hopes the Malaysian authorities will not prevent him from bringing his research and photographs back to Switzerland.

Manser disappeared in the Malaysian province of Sarawak after spending six years living with Borneo's Penan tribe and publicising their grievances. The Penans are one of the few remaining nomadic forest peoples, and campaigners say their way of life is threatened by logging.

Manser activities brought him into conflict with the Malaysian authorities, who declared him "persona non grata" 11 years ago. In July last year, the Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir Mohammad, described the Swiss activist as a "fanatic" with a hidden agenda.

He was arrested and deported by the Malaysian authorities in the spring of 1999, and threatened with a fine and imprisonment if he returned.

He has also long been a thorn in the side of the timber industry.

Malaysian police have denied there is any evidence he was in the country.

But the Bruno Manser Fund insists that he crossed into Sarawak state from Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, before disappearing.

"We are resigned," said BMF secretary, John Kuenzli. "If Bruno Manser were still alive, he would have been found.

swissinfo with agencies

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