Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Borneo – A future gem of Asia-Pacific

AS the third-largest island on earth, Borneo has its own unique advantages, including geographic location, natural resources, climate, and cultures.

This column will share on possible ways to further develop Borneo into a well-balanced and mutually-complemented community with the hope of opening up more sophisticated discussions on, for example, coming up with a model that may potentially be adopted by other developing economic entities.

If asked what paradise would look like, all might answer differently. However, if told there is a place rich in natural resources, renowned for diverse landscapes, notable for distinct cultures and friendly people, insusceptible to extreme weather and immune to natural disasters, most people would say that Borneo is an ideal place to stay and live.

With an area of nearly 750,000 square km (about twice that of Germany and over triple that of the United Kingdom),

Borneo is the third largest island in the world. Strategically located at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia, the island is surrounded by the Philippines, Indonesian archipelago, and the Indochina peninsula, and further by major economies such as China, South Korea, Japan, Australia and India.


From 1941 to 1945, Borneo was occupied by Japanese forces. A significantly large number of the local population lost their lives, including all the Malay Sultans of Kalimantan in the Pontianak incidents. During this period, the Dayaks, receiving assistance from the Allied Z Special Unit, engaged in guerrilla warfare against the occupying forces, mainly in Kapit Division.

After the Fall of Singapore in 1942, thousands of British and Australian prisoners were sent to camps in Borneo. At one of the worst sites around Sandakan, only six of some 2,500 survived. The Japanese forces were defeated by the Allies in 1945.


Today, Borneo is more harmoniously shared by Brunei and Malaysia in the north, and Indonesia in the south.

The population consists mainly of the Dayak community, Malays, Banjar, Chinese, and Kadazandusun. Most of the approximately 20 million inhabitants live in coastal cities and towns, including Samarinda, Banjarmasin, Balikpapan and Pontianak in Indonesia; Kuching, Miri, Kota Kinabalu, Tawau and Sandakan in Malaysia; and Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei.

Primarily mountainous and antipodal to an area of Amazon rainforest, Borneo has been extensively covered by rainforest historically. Due to heavy logging, dense areas of rainforest have been reduced.

Deforestation has been further accelerated by, for instance, mining and the widespread development of oil palm plantations.