Bruno Manser

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Bruno Manser (August 25, 1954 – legally dead March 10, 2005) was an environmental activist. He was well known in Switzerland for his public activism for rainforest preservation and the protection of indigenous peoples. He disappeared mysteriously in 2000 and is presumed dead.

Life with the Penans[edit]

Manser created richly illustrated notebooks during his stay in 1984 to 1990 with the Penan people, in the jungle of the Eastern Malaysian state of Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, near the Indonesian border of Kalimantan. He stayed with the nomadic band of Along Sega, who became the Penan figurehead for their struggle. He also visited many other settled Penan communities in the Upper Baram district. These notebooks were later published by the Christoph Merian press in Basel. Manser, however, was declared persona non grata in Malaysia and had to leave the country with a bounty of $40,000 on his head.


Manser protested internationally for Sarawak. On 17 July 1991 Manser chained himself to a lamp post with a banner during the G7 summit until cut loose by police. His protest was featured on the front page of The Independent newspaper the next day. In 1992 he parachuted into the Rio World Summit.


Bruno Manser is missing and presumed dead. Manser was last seen in May 2000 in the isolated village of Bario in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, close to the border with Indonesia. His last known communication is a letter mailed to his girlfriend on May 22, 2000, from the village of Bario, in the Kelabit Highlands, Sarawak, where he had returned to meet the nomadic Penan he lived with for so long.

Manser is still regarded by the Penan as somewhat of an idol, named "Laki Penan" (Penan Man). He was accused by the government of arranging numerous blockades of logging roads (although no proof has been given) and having some positive effect by protesting in Tokyo and Europe about the alleged inhumanity of the tropical timber industry.[citation needed]

After search expeditions proved fruitless, a civil court in Basel ruled on March 10, 2005 that Manser be considered dead.[1]

Manser's unpopularity with Sarawak's government and logging companies such as Samling, which have been known to use intimidation and violence as scare tactics, have prompted suspicions surrounding his death, none of which have yet been proven. It is believed[by whom?] Bruno Manser was killed by a politician's order as he could reveal the forest damage to the world media and would affect the profits.[citation needed]


  • SAGO - A Film by Bruno Manser (1997), a documentation of the culture of the Penan [1]

Several documentary films have been made about him. They are

  • Blowpipes and Bulldozers, (1988) [2],
  • Tong Tana - En resa till Borneos inre, (1989) [3] and
  • Tong Tana 2, (2001) [4].
  • Bruno Manser - Laki Penan was published in April 2007 [5].


  1. ^ Bruno Manser Fonds | Bruno Manser, retrieved 2014-05-06.

External links[edit]