KUALA LUMPUR: The seven missing orang asli children from SK Tohoi were not the children who were punished for swimming in a river, said a parent of the children.
Midah Angah, 40, mother to Norieen Yaakob, 10 and Haikal , 8, who went missing on August 23 said the older primary school children, 13 in all, were the ones targeted for punishment after they were caught swimming in the river and not the six girls and one boy aged seven to 11.
"All those who swam were the older boys," she told the press before handing over the relevant documents to Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) commissioner James Nayagam on Tuesday.
It was earlier reported that the children who went missing were believed to have fled into the jungle fearing punishment for taking a swim in the river without permission.
They have been identified as Miksudiar Aluj, 11, Norieen Yaakob, 10, Haikal Yaakob, 8, Ika Ayel, 9, Sasa Sobrie, 8, Linda Rosli, 8, and Juvina David, 7.
Midah, a widow, said after three of boys who swam were beaten with a stick from a rambutan tree on August 22, the rest were warned that they would be punished the following day.
However, they decided to hide in the plantation.
When their younger siblings could not find them, they thought that they had gone home for the weekend and decided to walk home to Kampung Penad and Kampung Gawen in Pos Gob, she said.
She said that it would take an adult orang asli six hours (exact distance not known) to walk home and longer for the children.
Midah said that until today, none of the teachers had gone to them officially to inform them of the missing children.
The Kelantan Orang Asli Village Network secretary Mustafa Along said the children did not know how to walk through the jungle and they were likely to have walk on the main logging road, which was exposed to people outside.
Juvina’s father, 32-year old David Kuasan said that he was the first to go into the jungle to search for the children upon hearing from the school security guard that Juvina, the second of his six child had gone missing.
He was unable to find any traces of her and the other children.
"It's as though they had just vanished - just like that," he said.
He said that if they were lost in the jungle, the orang asli would have found them because it was not difficult for them to find people lost in the jungle.
David said this was because they would be able to identify their footsteps, food items left behind or broken leaves.
"If they had been eaten by a tiger, there would be signs too," he said.
He said he was concern that the children might have been kidnapped as many people travelled on the logging road.
"I have not been able to eat or sleep well. Sometimes when I am alone, I cry to myself," said David.
The network youth chairman Dendi Johari said that when he was staying in a hostel as a student and walk for hours to home, they would hide in the drain or bushes for self-protection whenever they see vehicles passing by.
Human rights lawyer Siti Kasim said that the authorities must look into the possibility that the children were kidnapped.
"The authorities need to look into the possibility of them being kidnapped," she said.
Some of the parents were so distraught about their missing children that they had fallen ill, she said.
She said the orang asli were also disappointed that the authorities had been slow to act, as the police only started searching for the children five days after they went missing.
Siti Kasim added that the police only started to search outside the village on the sixth day.
She said the police started searching for the children five days and only started to search outside the village on the sixth day.
Nayagam said that the Commission would investigate the complaints by the orang asli and would come up with a solution as soon as possible.
"We will also find out from the relevant agencies as to the reason for the delay in searching for the children and the issue on possible kidnapping," he said.