KUANTAN: Fourteen orang asli were arrested for setting up a blockade to prevent workers from a logging company to gain access to a concession area near Air Panas in Bentong here yesterday.
Bentong OCPD Supt Mohamad Noor Hakim Kassim said all were men and aged between 20 and 40.
They were arrested at about 11am when they prevented workers from the company from doing their job at the old Kuala Lumpur-Bentong road near Air Panas.
Initially, there were about 20 of them but the 14 men refused to budge despite being advised to do so by the police, said Supt Mohamad Noor Hakim when contacted.
Supt Mohamad Noor, who was at the site, also said the orang asli were polite and did not resist arrest.
He said they would be produced before the court today for a remand order to facilitate police investigation into the matter.
Spokesman of the Temuan community in Kampung Sungai Miak, Mohd Zariman Mustapa, said the orang asli decided to set up the blockade at Genting Kelidang as they were worried that their source of water would be polluted by the land-clearing activity and their traditional orchards would be destroyed.
One hundred and eighty people from 26 families live in the village where they depend on the river for their source of water.
In principle, we are not against development in the area but we want to know the procedures for approving the logging permit because we have been left in the dark, he said.
He also said the orang asli wanted to know how the quantum of compensation of RM64,000 to be paid to them by the logging concessionaire, Koperasi Kijang Mas, was arrived at.
Based on our calculations, the compensation works out to less than RM1,000 per acre and we want to know why it is so low.
The logging company may be losing money but we are losing our source of food and water, he added.
He said the orang asli had sought the help and advice of the Peninsula Malaysia Orang Asli Association and Ketari assemblyman Yum Ah Ha to resolve the matter.
Logging contractor Ku Kam Sung, when met In Bentong, said he had received a three-month permit from the Forestry Department to clear logs in the area beginning May 10.
I have no choice but to lodge a police report against the villagers because they prevented my workers from working for the past 11 days, he said, adding that he was losing RM4,000 a day.
He said the land they were clearing was not orang asli reserve land but designated as the Bukit Tinggi forest reserve.
The demands that the villagers made are unreasonable, he said when citing that the demand of RM2,000 for each durian tree was too high.
He said he had held five meetings with the villagers and the authorities but there had been no resolution.
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