GUA MUSANG: A logging area in the jungle near here has become a battleground between the orang asli community and loggers.
The orang asli claim the tract of land between Pos Tohoi and Pos Simpor, some two-and-a-half hours’ drive from Gua Musang town, is their ancestral land. The loggers claim they have been given a concession to cut down the trees there.
On Wednesday, there was a violent confrontation between the orang asli and the loggers, with three orang asli being “arrested” by men claiming to be policemen.
They were released soon after as there were no police officers in uniform or police vehicles nearby.
While the loggers, armed with chainsaws and one with a shotgun, managed to breach a barricade and dismantle it, the orang asli have since regrouped and replaced the barricade. And no end seems to be in sight for the conflict.
Orang asli activist and lawyer Siti Kasim, who had met with the orang asli groups in the wee hours yesterday when they went to the Gua Musang district police station to lodge a police report, said the group intended to continue the struggle.
“They told me, before they left (the blockade site), that they had already gotten all the boys to rebuild the blockade and that they will continue.
“They are going to persist with the blockade,” she said.
The orang asli claim the area as part of their customary land and were shocked by the level of deforestation on the land.
They claimed that the state government did not seek the input of the orang asli and therefore reject the plans to level the jungle and replant the area with rubber trees.
“When they develop the land, they destroy everything inside the jungle,” said Azmi Badul, chairman of the Kelantan Network of Orang Asli Villages (JKOAK).
The loggers, on the other hand, say they have legally obtained their licences from the Kelantan Forestry Department.
“This work is licensed. Our logging activities are licensed. If the government licences can’t be used, what are the government licences for?” asked a logger in a video Siti posted on her Facebook page.
With both sides strongly believing they are in the right, the situation remains tense and could turn uglier.
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