• Indigenous peoples in Malaysia

    Indigenous peoples in Malaysia

    The peoples of the Orang Asli, the Orang Ulu, and the Anak Negeri groups together constitute the indigenous population of Malaysia. Although Malaysia has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the country’s indigenous population is facing a number of challenges, especially in terms of land rights.
  • Peoples

    13.8 per cent of the 31,660,700 million Malaysian population are indigenous peoples
  • Rights

    2007: Malaysia adopts the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Challenges

    Although Malaysia has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the country’s indigenous population is facing a number of challenges, especially in terms of land rights.

Malaysia

The peoples of the Orang Asli, Orang Ulu and Anak Negeri groups constitute the indigenous population of Malaysia. While Malaysia adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the country's indigenous population faces a number of challenges, especially in terms of land rights. Malaysia has not ratified ILO Convention 169.

The Orang Asli, the Orang Ulu and the Anak Negeri peoples

In 2015, it was estimated that the indigenous peoples of Malaysia represented about 13.8% of the population of 31,660,700 million.

The indigenous peoples of Peninsular Malaysia are collectively known as Orang Asali. The 18 Orang Asli subgroups within the Negrito (Semang), Senoi and Aborigen-Malay groups represent around 210,000 people or 0.7% of the population of Peninsular Malaysia.

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

In Sabah, the 39 different indigenous ethnic groups are known as natives or Anak Negeri and constitute about 2,233,100 people or 58.6% of the population of Sabah. The main groups are the Dusun, Murut, Paitan and Bajau groups.

Although the Malays are also indigenous to Malaysia, they are not categorized as indigenous peoples, because they constitute the majority and are political, economically and socially dominant.

Main challenges for the indigenous peoples of Malaysia

In Peninsular Malaysia, there is a clear lack of reference to the customary agrarian rights of Orang Asli. In Sarawak and Sabah, the laws introduced by the British during their colonial regime that recognize customary land rights and the customary law of indigenous peoples remain in force. However, they are not implemented properly and are ignored by the government, which prioritizes the extraction of large-scale resources and the plantations of private companies and state agencies on the rights and interests of indigenous communities.

Malaysia: New project addresses violence against women

In honour of International Women’s Day, we would like to take the opportunity to highlight one of our partner projects, where indigenous women have taken the lead and confronted challenges facing their community. In 2013, IWGIA partnered with the Sabah Women Action Resource Group (SAWO) to address violence against women in the Northern Sabah region of Malaysia, and we have recently renewed the project.  

“This is the first time that such a project is being undertaken in Sabah, a state that is one of the poorest in Malaysia and where the needs and rights of rural people, particularly women, are often ignored and overlooked by political leaders and government development agencies,” said Winnie Yee, project coordinator and SAWO president.

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Malaysia: New report calls for respect of indigenous peoples right to withhold consent for dam

Fact-finding mission reports on fundamental human rights violations committed by Malaysian company Sarawak Energy at the proposed Baram Dam, while blockades of villagers against the dam reach day 300.

(KUALA LUMPUR / BARAM, MALAYSIA) - A newly released fact-finding report reveals systematic human rights violations are being committed against the indigenous peoples of Sarawak by the proponents of the proposed Baram Dam in Malaysia.

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About IWGIA

IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. Download here.

Contact IWGIA

Prinsessegade 29 B, 3rd floor
DK 1422 Copenhagen
Denmark
Phone: (+45) 53 73 28 30
E-mail: iwgia@iwgia.org
CVR: 81294410

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