LONDON, April 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Timber from
a Malaysian logging giant accused of deforestation and human
rights violations is being used to construct the wooden stadium
that will be the centrepiece of Tokyo's Olympic Games, said a
group of charities.
An investigation by the charities this month twice found
plywood from Sarawak-based Shin Yang at the National Stadium
construction site - a breach of Japan's pledge to host a
sustainable Olympics in 2020, according to seven environmental
and rights organizations.
Shin Yang, one of the "big six" logging companies on the
Malaysian part of Borneo, has systematically cleared pristine
rainforest from the Southeast Asian island, said a statement by
charities, including Global Witness and Rainforest Action
Network, released on Thursday.
Tokyo's Olympic stadium will be constructed around an
unusual set of wooden lattices - a design conceived by architect
Kengo Kuma to harmonise with a forest of oak and camphor trees
surrounding the nearby Meiji shrine in the Japanese capital.
Shin Yang did not immediately respond to telephone calls or
questions sent by email.
According to a 2015 report by Global Witness, Shin Yang has
cut down over 40 hectares of forest a day on Borneo, where half
the plywood used in Japan's building and furniture industries is
Shin Yang is involved in a decade-long conflict in the
central part of Malaysian Borneo, with the Penan indigenous
minority. Community leaders told investigators for a 2014 report
by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia that forest clearance
to create palm oil plantations violated their rights to
traditional lands on which they depend for their livelihoods.
"Shin Yang is one of the most notorious exploiters of
Sarawak's tropical forests, and plywood from this company would
fail to meet any sustainability criteria," said Peg Putt, head
of Markets for Change, one of charities.
A spokesperson for the International Olympic Committee told
the Thomson Reuters Foundation it had agreed on a Sustainable
Sourcing Code for Timber with Tokyo Metropolitan Government and
National Government to assure venues for the games met ethical
The IOC had been assured that the wood used for the Olympic
stadium met certification standards, the spokesperson added.
Japan Sport Council (JSC), the government body in charge of
building Olympic competition venues, said Shin Yang timber was
But both JSC and Taisei, the building company leading the
stadium's construction, told Thomson Reuters Foundation all
timber on site meets requirements laid out in the code.
Hana Heineken of Rainforest Action Network said a provision
in the code exempted cheap plywood used to shape concrete from
the sustainable sourcing regulations.
Japan's government has said the wooden design was chosen
over competing proposals due to its fast construction time and
sensitivity to the environment.
Architect Kengo Kuma told the Thomson Reuters Foundation he
could not comment on questions related to the construction of
According to the report from the Human Rights Commission of
Malaysia, Shin Yang deforestation threatened local communities'
ability to continue traditional ways of life in the forest, and
recommended the government step in to protect the Penans, one of
the country's most marginalised groups.
"To use Shing Yang timber products is to deprive the
vulnerable Indigenous Penan and Iban peoples of their customary
rights, livelihoods, and cultural practices," said Nicholas
Mujah of Sarawak Dayak Iban Association, an indigenous rights
(Reporting by Matthew Ponsford, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.