Cameron Highlands safe to visit, Malaysian police say after reports of protests against crackdown on illegal farms

A photo of tea plantations in Cameron Highlands. Pahang police chief Abd Jalil Hassan refuted claims on social media that there had been riots and protests in the area. PHOTO: MALAYSIA TOURISM PROMOTION BOARD

KUANTAN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Cameron Highlands is peaceful and is safe to visit, said Pahang police chief Abd Jalil Hassan.

He refuted claims on social media that there had been riots and protests in the area following an operation by the authorities against illegal farms.

The police instead dispersed some 200 people who had protested against the operation in accordance with the standard operating procedure permitted under the law.

"The police force led by Cameron Highlands district police chief Ashari Abu Samah assisted the local Land and District office which had to clear the land of encroachments.

"We were also assured by the Pahang state government that action was taken within the law, including giving ample time for the illegal farm operators to vacate the land," he said on Thursday (Dec 26).

Mr Abd Jalil said seven people, including two politicians, who were detained during the protest were released on police bail after having their statements recorded on the same day.

He confirmed that no children were arrested on that day and that photographs which were spread on social media were untrue.

"Cameron Highlands is still safe for tourists," he said.

The current exercise, codenamed Op Lestari 2, started on Dec 16 and is a continuation of Op Lestari which was carried out jointly by several agencies, including the National Security Council, with the objective of preserving water resources, especially Sungai Ichat in Kuala Terla, which had been polluted.

During Op Lestari 2, police were deployed to provide security for officers carrying out the operations at illegal vegetable farms spread over 97.12ha, involving 60 owners, mostly around Sungai Ichat.

The decision to implement Op Lestari 2 was made on Dec 9 at the Cameron Highlands Rehabilitation Joint Action Committee meeting, which was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Pahang Menteri Besar Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail.

It was in line with a call by the Malaysian King Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, who is also Pahang Sultan, to stop illegal encroachment in the Sungai Ichat area after he visited it on Sept 7.

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