GUA MUSANG: Up on a hill not far from the Perak-Kelantan border, orang asli men are watching a sepak takraw game.
A net separating the two teams is tied to poles of makeshift huts on opposite sides of a dirt road.
A group of other men – some standing on the road, others in the huts – watch the game, while two children are into their own game, kicking a plastic bottle around.
Women by the huts chatter nearby as they cook food over crackling wood fire.
The smell of ikan bilis simmering in oil, cooked rice and roasted tapioca wafts through the air.
It looks like any orang asli village in northeast Peninsular Malaysia if not for the red-and-white boom gate and a banner at the foot of the settlement.
It’s been there since late September. It is a single bamboo culm put up to stop anyone from going into the Balah Forest Reserve, 60km away from Gua Musang.
Above it is the white banner with words in Malay painted in red: “This land is only for the Orang Asli to live on.” Read more