UNBEKNOWN to many, the Senoi Praaq special force unit under the police, comprising Orang Asli members has a long history. It was originally set up to deter the communists from infiltrating their villages during the Emergency period.Today, the unit plays a new role — protecting Malaysia’s wildlife.
The members have been roped in to help Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) catch poachers and wildlife smugglers under a special operation called Ops Khazanah.
This operation was launched by Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Abdul Hamid Bador in September last year.
There are two battalions of Senoi Praaq involved in Ops Khazanah — one is based in Bidor called the 3rd Battalion, and the other is the 18th Battalion in Pengkalan Hulu, both in Perak.
The Senoi Praaq consists of Orang Asli from the Semai, Temiar, Semelai, Temuan and Mah Meri tribes.
In the Semai language, Senoi Praaq is translated as “War People” or “Those Who Fight”.
To-date, there have been about 69 arrests with countless animal parts, traps and tools seized under Ops Khazanah.
Those arrested included 24 Malaysians while the rest were foreigners, many of whom were from Asean countries.
Among the items confiscated were tusks and meat of the Bornean bearded pig, bird feathers, animal traps, axes, knives and machetes.
Senoi Praaq 3rd Battalion commanding officer Supt Rosman Kasman said at least six teams had been sent on missions, with at least 25 cases reported since September.
“During an operation, our unit will patrol designated areas to look for signs of poachers, such as their campsites and animal traps.
“We will collect as much information as we can during these recces before making plans on how to deal with them, ” he told StarMetro at the Senoi Praaq headquarters in Bidor.
“We were informed that Ops Khazanah had gained the interest of international environmentalists and wildlife conservation groups, ” he added.
Supt Rosman said Perhilitan offered Senoi Praaq members courses on wildlife and the importance of protecting it, including lessons on the National Forestry Act.
“We have been told that some Orang Asli villagers are not aware that the tiger is endangered, ” he said.
He also expressed hopes that his battalion members would be trained in more skills, including abseiling, scuba diving, tactical shooting, triage and horse riding.
Third Battalion member Sjn Ramlan Bah Rehoi hoped the operation would encourage more Orang Asli to protect the wildlife and not help the poachers.
“Some poachers use the Orang Asli to locate the protected flora and fauna.
“We hope that through Ops Khazanah, the locals will realise the punishment that can be meted out to them if they help the poachers, ” he said.
Another member Sjn Mej Che Ahmad Bakar, who has been in the unit for 41 years, does not regret his decision to serve the country.
“When I joined the Senoi Praaq, it was because I was in need of a job after I completed secondary school.”
Although they have achieved many successes, Sjn Mej Che Ahmad acknowledged that the job could be dangerous at times and that he had lost a few friends in previous operations.
But he chose to look at the positive aspects, such as getting the chance to learn scuba diving.
“This comes in handy if we are assigned to look for evidence or victims underwater, ” he said.
For constable Mita Azmi, who was recruited three years ago, it was a dream come true to be part of Senoi Praaq.
“My father and my uncle served in this unit.
“Although I have a degree in art management, joining the force is something I have dreamt of since I was a child.
Mita, who is looking forward to being deployed on an Ops Khazanah mission, said there were fewer than 20 female personnel in the Senoi Praaq battalions.
“I hope there will be more vacancies soon as some of my friends want to join the unit, ” she said.