Hornbill Unleashed

March 23, 2010

Orang Asli community: Genocide in Malaysia?

“Orang Asli: Genocide in Malaysia?

This letter was written to malaysiakini to raise awareness of the plight of Orang Asli, and the brutal treatment they receive from the federal government.


The horrific treatment of the Orang Asli is mirrored in the treatment of the indigenous peoples of Sabah and Sarawak. We should all improve our awareness of the evils of racism and corruption.

At the heart of the issue, the Orang Asli and other Malaysians are all simply people, simply human beings.”

By HU Editor

In view of the recent events concerning the Orang Asli, I am compelled to write this letter to testify personally to the difficult situations encountered by the Orang Asli in Peninsular Malaysia.

My friends and I belong to a group of volunteers who have been visiting the interior of Pahang to provide basic healthcare and medical assistance to the Orang Asli over the last six years wherever we can. What we have seen and heard was heartbreaking.

Technically, health clinics have been set up across the country, including the state of Pahang, to provide healthcare services and basic medical assistance to the Orang Asli. In truth, however, most of these clinics have long been abandoned or are unmanned. The reason being, medical officers who have been assigned to these clinics never turn up for work at these clinics. At the same time, these same medical officers continue to claim payments and salaries for services which they have not rendered at these health clinics.

I remember an incident where a pregnant Orang Asli woman had to walk to a trunk road from her village at the edge of a forest to seek medical help. She was going into labour and there was no one in her village who was able to help her.

The ‘tok batin’ (title of the head of an Orang Asli village) told us, later on, that the health clinic at their village had been abandoned for a number of years because the medical officers assigned to the clinic had refused to turn up for work. As a result, this pregnant Orang Asli woman died on her way to the trunk road. This incident took place a few days before our arrival.

In our dialogues at a number of Orang Asli villages over the years, we were told that medical officers routinely refused to treat or work with the Orang Asli because they are of the opinion that the Orang Asli are a ‘dirty’ and ‘filthy’ people and therefore are not worthy of any help or assistance.

On another incident, we took an Orang Asli to a government hospital in a town in Pahang for treatment for problems related to hypertension and nearly had his medications thrown at his face. This doctor was unaware that my friend, who is a medical specialist from a hospital in KL, and I were waiting outside the consultation room. When we were told of the rude incident, my friend and I decided to confront this doctor for an explanation. Only then was the Orang Asli man given proper information about his prescription.

During a recent monsoon season where flood waters had nearly devastated an Orang Asli village, no one turned up to provide any form of relief or assistance to the villagers. Eventually, a small consignment of rice was sent to the village by the state government.

The rice was left at the home of the ‘tok batin’ who refused to distribute the rice to the rest of the villagers. The ‘tok batin’ claimed to be an Umno member, therefore, he was untouchable and could do as he pleased. Some villagers told us later on that the rice was never distributed and were sold to a third party.

Our team managed to transport about two dozen bags of rice to be distributed to the villagers. One of the villagers, a widow already weakened by hunger, succumbed to a fatal asthmatic attack while taking a bag of rice back to her hut. At her funeral that evening, our team was overwhelmed by a deep sense of desperation. Till today, a number of us in the team are still haunted by this tragic event.

Tragic incidences like these are just the tip of an iceberg. Land belonging to the Orang Asli, especially those in the lowland, are often leased out to oil palm plantation companies. In return, each Orang Asli household gets a small ‘rental income’ of up to RM500 per month on an average. Here again, this is at the discretion of the ‘tok batin’. This ‘income’ is sometimes withheld from households that are widowed or orphaned. Largely illiterate, these widows and orphans have no legal recourse to claim their entitlement and are left to fend for themselves.

Furthermore, oil palm plantations sometimes destroy the Orang Asli home ground by allowing excessive fertilisers and pesticides to pollute the environment and to destroy nearby rivers. These are the same oil palm plantations which made promises of employment to the Orang Asli before the first planting but which usually reneged on their promises.

Indonesian workers are favoured over the Orang Asli. The main reason stated by oil palm plantation owners is that Indonesian workers are more reliable as the Orang Asli have a problem with alcoholism and do not turn up for work when required. Interestingly, some Orang Asli have found it easier to get jobs in Singapore than back home in Malaysia.

Alcoholism and drug addiction among the Orang Asli are serious social problems among the younger Orang Asli. Aids/HIV is next. Marginalised by much of society and government policies, many young Orang Asli turn to drugs and alcohol to vent their anger and frustration. Most of the Orang Asli drop out of school by the time they reached Form 2.

While some hostels are provided at some secondary schools for the Orang Asli, the Orang Asli students are often told that they must convert to Islam if they want to pursue further education at the schools. Caught between a rock and a hard place, some Orang Asli students comply while others just slip through the cracks. The Orang Asli are basically animistic in their religious beliefs. Any other religion is a hard sell with the Orang Asli.

Concerning the Orang Asli Affairs Department, the JHEOA, itis becoming more like an extended Islamic affairs department than an Orang Asli affairs department. The unwritten policy of the JHEOA seems to be to proselyte and convert the Orang Asli to Islam. For example, if an Orang Asli village needs to build a community hall but is lacking the resources to do so, they can approach the JHEOA.

However, the Orang Asli must provide an undertaking that the community hall must double-up as a ‘surau’ before any approval is given. I have been told personally by two ‘tok batins’ that they will be paid RM100 to RM200 as a reward for every Orang Asli converted to Islam in their respective villages.

I have seen more 4WDs in the Klang Valley with the JHEOA logo painted on their doors in the than in the state of Pahang over the last isx years. Can someone in the JHEOA enlighten me on this? To me, the JHEOA had long outlived its purpose.

Finally, the problems facing the Orang Asli must be dealt with quickly and in a humane manner. Sweeping the dirt under the carpet is not going to make it all go away. The denial mentality among our politicians must be arrested. The Orang Asli are facing the real risk of extinction as a people. To deny otherwise is nothing more than a systematic act of genocide.


  1. The 2 pics of orang asli in this blog shows them as healthy and happy….i think the orang asli are just being pawns in the non stop racist politics in Malaysia. Every single politician in Malaysia is a racist (both BN and PAKATAN). All out to line their pockets only. None is committed to finding real workable/practical solutions to better our education, social welfare, daily economic woes and plugging leakages in national/state spending . All make promises but none deliver! The ruling governments be it federal or state must serve the people first.

    Comment by arman — September 6, 2010 @ 2:48 PM | Reply

    • Smells like Rentap. Also like methane.

      Comment by analist — September 6, 2010 @ 9:49 PM | Reply

  2. I had to check for myself the allegation against the JHEOA to convert the OA to Islam (Al-Jazeera report), and went to a nearby village in KL. I found that the allegation was untrue in this particular village (I have yet to venture into villages in Pahang)as there were houses built by both MAIS (Majlis Agama Islam Selangor) and JHEOA, while the houses built by the former were occupied by Muslims and the latter by Non-Mulsims. The Community hall was on the side where the Non-Muslims were housed, and not particularly well utilised ….. what without electricity although the power line had been connected..

    Those who are interested to help must go to the villages with an open mind without influence by any write-ups nor have any preconceived ideas. The idea is to go to the villages as a Malaysian and nothing more or less…!

    Comment by bionicleacker — August 17, 2010 @ 1:34 PM | Reply

  3. This is what i think, the ONLY bumiputra for malaysia is the orang asli, not other race that claim they are the bumiputra!!!!

    Comment by andrew lai — March 23, 2010 @ 10:42 PM | Reply

  4. Jom !
    Bangkitlah !
    Anak-anak bangsa Malaysia.

    Please view the following videos.

    1st video :-
    We the people – Charlie Chaplin speech remix
    ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQu_l0sZb8o

    2nd video :-
    The Great Dictator – speech
    ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkGhSDrDBtw

    The speech transcript from the clip is as below :-

    “… I’m sorry but I don’t want to be an Emperor – that’s not my business – I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, gentile, black man, white(Anak-anak bangsa Malaysia). We all want to help one another, human beings are like that.
    We all want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the earth is rich and can provide for everyone.
    The way of life can be free and beautiful.
    But we have lost the way.
    Greed has poisoned men’s souls –
    has barricaded the world with hate;
    has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.
    We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in:
    machinery that gives abundance has left us in want.
    Our knowledge has made us cynical,
    our cleverness hard and unkind.
    We think too much and feel too little:
    More than machinery we need humanity;
    More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness.
    Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.
    The airplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me I say “Do not despair”.
    The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress: the hate of men will pass and dictators die and the power they took from the people , will return to the people and so long as men die [now] liberty will never perish. . .

    Soldiers(Anak-anak bangsa Malaysia) – don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you – who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, diet you, treat you as cattle, as cannon fodder.
    Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines. You are not cattle. You are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate – only the unloved hate. Only the unloved and the unnatural.

    Soldiers(Anak-anak bangsa Malaysia) – don’t fight for slavery, fight for liberty.
    In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written
    “the kingdom of God is within man ”
    – not one man, nor a group of men – but in all men – in you, the people.
    You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy let’s use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age and security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfil their promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfil that promise. Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.

    Soldiers(Anak-anak bangsa Malaysia) – in the name of democracy, let us all unite!

    The Power of anak-anak bangsa Malaysia

    Comment by Burung — March 23, 2010 @ 8:26 PM | Reply

  5. My heart bleed when I read the article. Thanks to todays technology and to the writer for bringing this to our attention. I hope the people of Sarawak will rise to change in the next election. Only with your votes that we,the Sarawakians will be able to hope for a democracy society where all will be treated equally regardless of their race and religion.

    Comment by Anak Tupong — March 23, 2010 @ 5:43 PM | Reply

  6. As a minority in Peninsular Malaysia, the Orang Asli’s plights are often overlooked by the power-that-be.

    I hope and pray that the natives in Sabah and Sarawak will stand united in the next GE to fight for their basic rights and well beings.

    In Malaysia, gaining political power is the way forward for the natives of Sabah and Sarawak and the Orang Asli.

    Thank God for the new media, the plights of the Orang Asli are now known all over the Net.

    ‘The Lord executes righteousness and judgement to those who are oppressed.’….Psalm 103:5

    Comment by PH Chin — March 23, 2010 @ 11:26 AM | Reply

  7. The destiny & fate of the Kayans of Sarawak awaits the native people of Sarawak & Sabah if you fail to unite as THE THIRD BLOCK in the next election.


    Comment by svmbanu — March 23, 2010 @ 1:43 AM | Reply

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