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Deforestation project in Pahang exacerbates Orang Asli land rights struggle

A plantation project in Pahang wants to clear almost 85km2 of primary forest. The Orang Asli who live on the site have been protesting the logging since 2019. But there are two letters signed by the illiterate villagers which purportedly show their support for the logging. What happened?

A version of this story first appeared on Southeast Asia Globe on 21 June 2021.

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OMAR RANI is an Orang Asli who lives in the village of Kampung Berengoi in Pahang. Omar and his fellow Orang Asli villagers are illiterate – or as they put it: “We haven’t gone to school”.

Last year, they were asked to sign letters to receive free houses from private company YP Olio Sdn Bhd. Though unable to read a word, Omar and the villagers signed them; they trusted the government officers who accompanied the company’s representatives.

(Photo: The Orang Asli at Kampung Berengoi and Kampung Mesau gathered to speak out against logging around their homes. Rani (first left), Sani (second left), Omar (seated center), Abdullah (first right). Pic by Aminah A/P Tan Kay Hoe.)

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