THE orang asli are the indigenous minority peoples of peninsular Malaysia. The name is a Malay term which translates as “original people” or “first people”. It is a collective term introduced by anthropologists and administrators for the 18 sub-ethnic groups generally classified for official purposes under Negrito, Senoi and Proto-Malay. Each group has its own language and culture, and perceives itself as different from the others.
The orang asli have equally varied occupations and ways of life. The Orang Laut, Orang Seletar and Mah Meri, for example, live close to the coast and are mainly fishermen. Some Temuan, Jakun and Semai have taken to permanent agriculture and now manage their own rubber, oil palm or cocoa farms.