An Aring Health Clinic staff member carrying out checks on an Orang Asli child from the Batek tribe at the clinic in Gua Musang yesterday.- NSTP/SYAMSI SUHAIMI

GUA MUSANG: MORE than 16,000 Orang Asli from four tribes call Kelantan their home, and the majority of them practise age-old customs, especially when it comes to funeral rites.

Sources said of the majority, some 14,275 are from the Temiar tribe while the rest are from the Jahai (788), Batek (738) and Mendriq (367) tribes.

Sources said most of them lived in settlements in the interior parts of the state, such as Jeli and here.

“The Batek tribe is the third biggest indigenous community in Kelantan and most of them are still practising their old traditions, such as funeral rites.

“It is their belief that the burial of a family member, particularly one who has died of an unknown disease, should be done far away from their homes, such as in the jungles, as they do not want their souls or other ‘bad things’ to return,” said one source.

The source said the Orang Asli believed that “bad creatures” would not disturb other villagers if the bodies were placed deep in the jungles.

However, not all Orang Asli tribes practise the same customs and traditions as the Batek tribe.

“Each Orang Asli tribe will have their own customs which they will follow and many of these customs are different from other tribes,” said a source.

Former Temiar village head Ramli Lanas said his tribe did not bury their dead in the jungles even if the person had died of disease.

He said what had happened with the Batek tribe in Kuala Koh should serve as a lesson for the Orang Asli in Sungai Rual, where his village was located.

“I told them (his villagers) that they need to follow basic hygiene rules in their daily activities and to ensure the river water that they take for consumption is boiled first,” said the 54-year-old.

Health officers continue to carry out checks on the Orang Asli, especially children, at the Aring Health Clinic and the Kuala Koh settlement.

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