GUA MUSANG: A police team will begin a search tomorrow for the graves of 12 members of the Batek tribe given a customary burial in the jungle after dying of pneumonia in the past month.
Federal police official Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani said Orang Asli headmen would join 30 members of the General Operations Force and Gua Musang police.
Acryl Sani, who is director of internal security and public order at federal police headquarters, said the bodies of the Orang Asli would be exhumed for autopsies to ascertain the actual cause of death.
He said the police had yet to confirm the deaths of the 12 Orang Asli. “So far, only two deaths of Orang Asli were reported to the police and a post mortem carried out on the bodies,” he said.
On Sunday, cabinet minister P Waytha Moorthy confirmed that 14 Orang Asli from Kampung Kuala Kok had died, apparently after contracting pneumonia. Police have said post-mortem examination on two Orang Asli had found a viral infection of the lungs to be the cause of death.
Media reports have said a pond from which the Orang Asli drew their water might have been contaminated by mining activity or logging. Acryl Sani took a helicopter ride of the area today and said police would investigate whether the river water had been contaminated.
Deaths went unreported because of fear and the Batek tribe’s nomadic way of life
Fear, panic, and the nomadic way of life of the Batek tribe of Orang Asli were some of the reasons for the deaths of 14 Orang Asli being unreported, according to a government official.
The director-general of Orang Asli Development, Juli Edo, said matters were made worse by the absence of communications in the remote location deep within the jungle near Taman Negara on the border of Kelantan and Pahang.
“Based on the Orang Asli’s normal practices, when their relatives died, they would bury the bodies just like that,” he said. Quick burials took place to prevent diseases from spreading.
Juli, who is of the Semai tribe, said the Batek were nomadic people, part of the Negrito group, found in Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu.
He said there were three main factors that would cause the Batek community to move from one place to another, namely, food sources, disease and visiting relatives to attend a feast that required them to stay in certain areas for an extended period of time.