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Indigenous Peoples Made Scapegoat For Pollution

Children suffer as tribal peoples are deprived of traditional livelihood

Factories continue belching smoke as usual

Anti-pollution crusaders demand limits on the poor and weak

As usual, no limitations on the powerful, or on the crusaders themselves

Recently the Malaysian government has forbidden the indigenous peoples of the country (Orang Asli) to clear their fields by the traditional slash and burn method. The reason is to prevent air pollution. The Orang Asli have cleared their fields by this sustainable method for 10,000 years without producing any pollution at all. The air pollution comes from enormous factories, from de facto unregulated vehicle exhausts and from clearcutting by enormous logging and plantation interests.

The Orang Asli have protested that without a harvest they will starve but say that they will cooperate if the government will provide them with a minimal amount of food: one sack of rice per family! Their children are already the most malnourished in the country, with a third to half showing evidence of severe malnutrition. The government has summarily and contemptuously rejected this option. (For documentation of this story, see the June 15 Star (Msia) feature story on "the Haze" at

Your reputation for concern with the "little guy" prompts me to ask you to intervene in this threatened cruelty before the children start dying, by (1) drawing the attention of your colleagues to this matter and (2) perhaps having a staffer contact the Malaysian embassy in the easiest way and indicating your interest in the matter.

The people involved are, anthropologists say, the most peaceful known. Killing them off seems inappropriate. Maybe we could learn something from them.

Story submitted by Andii

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