Orang Asli abandon village, flee into forest to escape Covid-19

GUA MUSANG: Over 300 Orang Asli residents of Kampung Orang Asli Batek, Kuala Koh, have fled deep into the forest for the tenth time to escape the Covid-19 pandemic.

Their most recent shift took place four days ago when daily Covid-19 cases in the country hit an all-time high of over 600 new cases. 

Papan Majid, 47, who is one of the villagers, said they were forced to move into the forest out of fear of contracting the coronavirus.

Orang Asli abandon village, flee into forest to escape Covid-19
Over 300 Orang Asli residents of Kampung Orang Asli Batek, Kuala Koh, have fled deep into the forest for the tenth time to escape the Covid-19 pandemic. Their most recent shift took place four days ago when daily Covid-19 cases in the country hit an all-time high of over 600 new cases. – NSTP/RAMLI IBRAHIM.

He said the death of fifteen Orang Asli tribe members from measles over a year ago has also added to the fear.

Papan said his family has not moved on from grieving over his two daughters, who died one day apart, due to measles. 

“We have been frequently moving into the forest since the Covid-19 pandemic began on March 18 because the (measles outbreak) keeps playing in our minds, and we only return home once every two weeks.

“In the last seven months since the pandemic began, we have been living with unease and are worried that we are exposed to the virus,” he said here, today. 

The measles infection, which occurred in June last year, led to the death of 15 Orang Asli at Kampung Orang Asli Batek, Kuala Koh.

Another 112 members of the tribe were infected and received treatment at Hospital Gua Musang (HGM) and Hospital Kuala Krai (HKK).

Another Orang Asli resident, Pikas Langsat, 35, said most of the tribe members have moved into the forest to get access to clean water.

He said the pristine rivers in the forest provide clean water, and they could easily prepare their meals by hunting the animals there. 

He added that it has become common practice for the villagers to stay in the woods to protect themselves from the Covid-19 infection. 

“We feel protected from the pandemic when we stay in the forests and we move into other areas after two weeks,” Pikas said.

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