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There’s a new trend among the Orang Asli women… and it involves marrying foreigners

There’s a new trend among the Orang Asli women in Cameron Highlands. Apparently, more and more Orang Asli women are marrying foreigners! No, we’re not talking about ang mohs but the Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and Indonesians! They reportedly married the Orang Asli women to get easy access to govt financial aids, among other things. Wah, take our job and, now, our Orang Asli women too??

And what’s worrying tho, according to news reports, is that this trend has caused Orang Asli girls to feel unsafe in their own community as some of them have been reportedly taken away by foreigners. For instance, a Temiar Orang Asli in Kampung Sendrop named Sani Along claimed that his daughter was taken away by a foreigner.

One of the orang asli's family who has similar experience with Sani. Img from BH Online

One of the Orang Asli families who has similar experience with Sani. Img from BH Online

“My daughter was taken by a foreigner who works at the vegetable farm near (our) house and a search operation has to be launched.” – Sani told BH Online. Translated from BM.

But that’s not all. To make matters worse, we even heard about a roadblock in Cameron Highlands and the rumored reason was that two foreigners were beheaded by… the Orang Aslis! OMGOMGOMG!!

We later clarified with Rizal Samsuri, an officer from the Department of Orang Asli Department (JAKOA) who told us that the beheading incident did NOT happen. So we’re not quite sure what actually happened that night or why there was a roadblock. Maybe that’s a story for another day. :\

But to find out if foreigners are really marrying the Orang Asli women to get those govt aids, we have to understand how they end up in Cameron Highlands in the first place.


Actually… there are 15,000 foreign workers in Cameron Highlands!

If you’ve been to Cameron Highlands, you’ve probably visited its strawberry farms, tea farms and vegetable farms! However, as of last year, Cameron Highlands reportedly faced a huge shortage of labour in most of its farms.

Workers at Cameron Highlands' farms. Img from FMT

Workers at Cameron Highlands’ farms. Img from FMT

According to a businessman, Datuk P Kanatazan, most locals, including the Orang Asli, do not want to work at those farms anymore.

“There are among the Orang Asli who do not want to do ‘dirty’ jobs. They want to do simple jobs such as in the hospitality industry. Some of them are also more interested in working as lorry drivers.” – Kanatazan to FMT. Translated from BM.

And because of this, more and more foreign workers are flooding into Cameron Highlands to work (no, literally). As of last year, People’s Progressive Party (MyPPP) president, Tan Sri M Kayveasestimated that there are 15,000 foreign workers in Cameron Highlands! This number is a sum of both legal workers and Pendatang Asing Tanpa Izin (PATI).

Wah, so many of them liao! That many to the extent that some of them don’t only work at the farms but also own farms on lands that are rented out by retiring farmers or Orang Asli. Yeap, according to Rizal, Orang Asli do own some lands in Cameron Highlands.

So, if foreigners can easily own farms by just renting those lands from the Orang Asli, then why are news reports stating that they married Orang Asli women to get business licenses and aids from the govt??

In fact, they won’t even be able to get any of Orang Asli’s govt aids by just marrying them anyway. Rizal told us that although foreigners get married to Orang Asli, the aids and assets that belong to the Orang Asli will still belong to the Orang Asli.

“Nobody has rights over Orang Asli assets (like land or govt financial aids).” – Rizal to CILISOS. Translated from BM.

However, some of the foreigners reportedly manipulate or use their wives’ names to apply for business licenses and financial aids like the Bantuan Sara Hidup that was intended for the Orang Asli. Well, this is likely la since Rizal admits that although the aids are not for the foreigners, they are intended for the families. Which means that the foreigners may indirectly get the aids thru their wives or kids.

That's why orang aslis now register their marriage... to get Bantuan Sara Hidup! Img from Utusan

That’s why Orang Aslis now register their marriages… to get govt aids! Img from Utusan

If that’s what’s happening to the Orang Asli women, then it probably makes sense why the Orang Asli community is bringing this issue up. But how frequent does this happen tho considering how serious it sounds? Surprisingly…


JAKOA said these marriages are not as common as the Malays marrying Indonesians!

“Actually the number of Orang Asli women marrying foreigners is not that high if compared to the Malays. Maybe one (intermarriage) or two in a year. There are even more Malays marrying Indonesians than the Orang Asli marrying foreigners.” – Rizal told CILISOS.

And he might be right tho. Back in 2013, 20,000 Muslim foreigners reportedly married locals in Sabah and most of them were reportedly from the Philippines and Indonesia.

In fact, we also found out that there are so many Malaysian women, in general, who had gotten married to Bangladeshis. Soooo many they could even form a club called the Malaysian Wife to Bangladesh Club back in 2015.

In fact, there are so many Malay women who had gotten married to Bangladeshis to the extent that they can even form a club! Img from The Daily Star

One of the wives from the club with her Bangladeshi husband. Img from The Daily Star

However, unlike other Malaysians, it is not THAT common for the Orang Asli to marry foreigners. Rizal said that the community is even warned by the Tok Batins (aka Ketua Kampungs) to not marry foreigners. Despite the warnings, some Orang Asli women still get married to foreigners. And when this happen, some Tok Batins would eventually kick the couple out of the community.

This is why some couples tend to elope and won’t even register their marriages to the authorities. And when this happens, many problems will arise such as giving birth to stateless children.

Earlier we mentioned that the foreigners come to Cameron Highlands to work at farms. And once their working contracts are over, they would have to return to their home country. So you can probably tell what happens when these foreigners get married to the Orang Asli women, especially when they can no longer stay in Malaysia, considering they entered here legally in the first place.

“When the foreigners return to their home countries, the children born from the relationship with Orang Asli women are left behind without any proper identification or citizenship status which creates difficulties in their enrollment in public schools apart from being deemed foreigners themselves, which is what happened at the resettlement scheme in Rompin, Pahang.” – Unnamed source told Berita Harian. Excerpt from Malay Mail.

Back in 2010, about 80 Orang Aslis in Rompin, Pahang were reportedly stateless as they do not have birth certificate. Similar thing can happen to the Orang Asli children who are born from marriages between Orang Asli and foreigners, especially when they do not register their marriages.

darshana adopted school featured image

We wrote several articles on stateless children in Malaysia. Click the image to read them!


So why are the Orang Asli women marrying foreigners anyway??

Besides the problems that may arise, the couples won’t even be able to get govt aids, according to JAKOA, if they don’t register their marriages! So, this pretty much contradict the claims that foreigners are marrying these Orang Asli women to get govt financial aids or even licenses.

So the big question here is… why did they get married anyways considering the stigma they have to go thru. Y’know those stigma that foreigners are only marrying Malaysian women to use them to get govt aids or to become a permanent resident here and once they get what they wanted, they’ll just ciaodamao, leaving their wives behind.

Actually, according to a Bangladeshi expatriate named Mohammad Faisal, this stigma might be true because some Bangladeshis have actually abandoned their Malaysian wives some 20 years back. But with the establishment of clubs like the Malaysian Wife to Bangladesh Club, the Bangladeshis and their wives are slowly fighting the stigma away.

The Malaysian Wife of Bangladeshi club. Img from The Daily Star

The Malaysian Wife of Bangladeshi club. Img from The Daily Star

“We don’t think that we are treated differently. We rather want to say we are happy families and Bangladeshis are good husbands.” – Shahida Sasha Mohd Rashidi, a wife to a Bangladeshi expatriate, told The Daily Star, 28 December 2015.

So, despite our misgivings, there’s no other reason to get married with anyone, we repeat, ANYONE regardless of race and nationality, except for… love. And this pretty much applies to the Orang Asli women who chose to get married to those foreigners.

Rizal told us that authorities like themselves and Tok Batins can only do so much to educate the orang asli community on the risks of marrying foreigners but once the Orang Aslis make the decision to marry foreigners, JAKOA and Tok Batins cannot prevent the marriage from happening.

“It’s the right of every individual to marry whoever they like. We can’t stop them.” – Rizal.

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