Malaysia

Overview

As of 2017, the indigenous peoples of Malaysia were estimated to account for around 13.8% of the national population of 31,660,700 million. They are collectively known as Orang Asal. The Orang Asli are the indigenous peoples of Peninsular Malaysia. The 18 Orang Asli subgroups within the Negrito (Semang), Senoi and Aboriginal-Malay groups account for about 215,000 or 0.7% of the population of Peninsular Malaysia (31,005,066).

In Sarawak, the indigenous peoples are collectively known as natives (Dayak and/or Orang Ulu). They include the Iban, Bidayuh, Kenyah, Kayan, Kedayan, Lunbawang, Punan, Bisayah, Kelabit, Berawan, Kejaman, Ukit, Sekapan, Melanau and Penan. They constitute around 1,932,600 or 70.5% of Sarawak’s population of 2,707,600 people.

In Sarawak, the indigenous peoples are collectively called Orang Ulu or Dayak and include the Iban, Bidayuh, Kenyah, Kayan, Kedayan, Murut, Punan, Bisayah, Kelabit, Berawan and Penan. They constitute around 50% of Sarawak’s population of 2.5 million people.

In Sarawak and Sabah, laws introduced by the British during their colonial rule recognising the customary land rights and customary law of the indigenous peoples, are still in place. However, they are not properly implemented, and are even outright ignored by the government, which gives priority to large-scale resource extraction and the plantations of private companies and state agencies over the rights and interests of the indigenous communities. In Peninsular Malaysia, while there is a clear lack of reference to Orang Asli customary land rights in the National Land Code, Orang Asli customary tenure is recognised under common law. The principal Act that governs Orang Asli administration, including occupation of the land, is the Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954.

Malaysia has adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and endorsed the Outcome Document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. It has not ratified ILO Convention 169.

In Sarawak and Sabah, laws introduced by the British during their colonial rule recognizing the customary land rights and customary law of the indigenous peoples are still in place. However, they are not properly implemented, and are even outright ignored by the government, which gives priority to large-scale resource extraction and plantations of private companies over the rights and interests of the indigenous communities.

International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, The Indigenous World 2019

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