On a prime slice of Malaysia’s Selangor coast, an Orang Asli tribe fights to hold onto its ancestral land

As developers and other commercial players come knocking, the Mah Meri in Selangor are one of Malaysia’s indigenous communities fighting to gazette their land before it’s too late.

(CNA) – On Selangor’s southern coast, a shady strip of beach plays host to the Orang Asli outpost of Bagan Lalang, a small settlement of ramshackle huts and rudimentary homes.

This is where a tiny community of the Mah Meri indigenous people of Selangor live, on land they are said to have foraged for hundreds of years. But not for much longer.

On May 13, Mr Marin Mungai, chairman of the main Mah Meri village of Bukit Bangkong 12km away, visited what was left of the Bagan Lalang village to show CNA around.

He paced around the settlement, recounting how Bagan Lalang was not an actual village but a way for the community to live closer to where they worked.

Mr Marin stopped at one of the houses, where a young man sat on the floor by his door, arms wrapped around his knees. “Don’t ever move out until you’ve been given new homes,” Mr Marin warned him.

In April 2021, the Mah Meri inhabitants of Bagan Lalang were served a notice by the Selangor land office to vacate the area, which will be developed as an extension of a nearby luxury resort under the state’s Sepang GoldCoast development plan.

The incident made headlines as yet another case of the Orang Asli in Malaysia fighting for their land rights against parties backed by the state government.

The country has slightly more than 200,000 Orang Asli from 18 tribes, or just under 1 per cent of its total population of 32 million.

Selangor is home to 4,100 members of the Mah Meri, its population concentrated in the Bukit Bangkong area with another community on Carey Island.


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