Orang Asli in Malaysia's Perak threaten blockade

VIDEO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK

GRIK (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Kampung Ralak, located about 35km southeast of Grik, is one of an estimated 15 Orang Asli villages comprising more than 4,000 people within a widely spread indigenous settlement known as Pos Kemar.

Many Orang Asli rely on the jungle for their livelihood. Plants are used for a variety of things, including as medicine, food, clothing and building materials, and some animals are hunted for their meat.

They also depend on nearby rivers for their daily needs. But heavy logging can cause silting, leading to shallower and murkier water.

GPS coordinates showed that the cleared land was also less than 2km away from Peninsular Malaysia's second largest lake, Tasek Temenggor.

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A signboard by the logged area, presumably erected by Perak state forestry officials, showed details of a logging concession for 186ha from Feb 16 to Aug 15, 2017.

It also showed that the logging was slated for the Mukim Temenggor forest reserve in Hulu Perak.


Kamal Abain, an Orang Asli representative from Kampung Ralak, explains how heavy logging around Pos Kemar, Perak, has not only made it difficult for his people to look for food, and that many of his ancestors’ graves have also been destroyed. PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK

It added that the logging would take place specifically on government land, with the words "Orang Asli Pos Khemar" on it.

It is not known how much more of the jungle is being logged, or how many logs have come from the site near Kamal's village.

But The Star noticed several fully-laden logging trucks coming out of the jungle to deposit their cargo at a site just 14km south of Kampung Ralak.


A bird's eye view of the logging site some 14km away from Kampung Ralak, near Grik, Perak. Widespread logging has made life difficult for the Orang Asli in this village, who are threatening to start a blockade if logging in the area continues
. PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK

The Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa), the Hulu Perak district forestry office in Grik, and the Perak State Forestry Department in Ipoh did not reply to several queries on Kampung Ralak, Pos Kemar or the logging in the area.

Peka president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said the NGO would support an Orang Asli blockade.


An Orang Asli child standing next to a bamboo hut in Kampung Ralak, near Grik, Perak in mid-May 2017. Widespread logging has made life difficult for the Orang Asli in Kampung Ralak, near Grik, Perak, who are threatening to start a blockade if logging in the area continues
. PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK

However, she warned that such a move might face strong government opposition, which is what the Orang Asli in Kelantan faced in late 2016 and early 2017 when they set up several blockades in forests 60km from Gua Musang.

These blockades stopped loggers from going into the jungle for months before they were destroyed by authorities, and dozens of Orang Asli arrested by forestry officers. Two journalists covering the story there were also detained and later released.


Abu Bakar bin Aluej, an Orang Asli spokesman from Kampung Ralak, poses for a picture next to logs in near Grik, Perak in mid-May, 2017. Widespread logging has made life difficult for the Orang Asli in Kampung Ralak, near Grik, Perak, who are threatening to start a blockade if logging in the area continues. PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Shariffa appealed to lawyers to help the Orang Asli defend their rights.

She said if the logging was not stopped in Perak, the same thing would also happen in more states.

"And that's it - our forests will be gone," she added.


Orang Asli women with their children in Kampung Ralak, near Grik, Perak, in mid-May, 2017. Widespread logging has made life difficult for the Orang Asli in this village, who are threatening to start a blockade if logging in the area continues. PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Mohd Affendi Along, secretary of the Perak Orang Asli Village Network, said attempts to get answers from the Perak government have thus far failed.

He warned that if the authorities continued to ignore them, the Orang Asli would have no choice but to resort to setting up a blockade.

He did not say when this might be but added, "This is the only way to defend our rights and our land."