SOCA-SAP 2023 Research-Engagement: Orang Asli Project in Cameron Highlands

By Noor Azlan Mohd Noor

The Department of Sociology & Anthropology (SOCA) in collaboration with Unit for  Social Issues and Development, Advocacy and Research (USIDAR), AHAS KIRKHS,  International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) initiated an Orang Asli Project (OAP) in Cameron Highlands for SOCA-SAP 2023 Research-Engagement activity. The theme of the OAP was ‘Socialising for Community Advancement (SOCA): Knowing Orang Asli‘.

The OAP proceeded as follows: 

(1) Courtesy Visit to Cameron Highlands District and Land Office, Pahang. (2) Visit and Community Engagement to the Department of Orang Asli Development (JAKOA-Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli). 

Background of the Cameron Highlands Visit 

On 1st August, 2023 (Tuesday) AHAS KIRKHS had launched the Kulliyyah’s SAP 2023 (Scholarship Advancement Programme 2023). It was a strategic initiative designed by the Kulliyyah for departments to raise any ideas or initiatives for the SAP. Several SAP 2023 activities would be initiated such as research-based activities, securing grants, organizing seminars, round-table discussion, and community engagement programmes, to list down a few. These activities would eventually lead to the scholarship of different areas, i.e. discovery, teaching and learning, integration, Islamisation or Relevantisation, application and  community engagement.  

On 7th August, 2023 (Monday), the SOCA-SAP 2023 began with the Orang Asli Project (OAP) initiative of which was conducted in Cameron Highlands, Pahang. The SOCA  team members led by Assoc. Prof. Dr Rohaiza Rokis as Head of Department (HOD), and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Noor Azlan Mohd Noor as the Coordinator of the Orang Asli Project together with seven (7) SOCA academic staff and one SOCA postgraduate student had successfully organized an official trip and visit to the following government  organisations:  

(1) Cameron Highlands District and Land Office, Pahang. 

(2) Department of Orang Asli Development (JAKOA-Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli).

Chronology of the Cameron Highlands Official Visit Event 

  1. Cameron Highlands District and Land Office, Pahang

The official meeting and briefing were held at Bilik Gerakan, Cameron Highlands  District and Land Office at 9.30 a.m. The briefing session was conducted and delivered by two district officers, namely, Encik Muhammad Shukri Bin Abdul Aziz, Chief of Assistant District Officer (ADO) and Puan Siti Rothemanizan Bt Otheman, Assistant  District Officer (ADO). SOCA team members were exposed to and informed of various issues relating to  physical and societal developments in the Cameron Highlands district. Issues discussed included matters relating to administrative jurisdiction, land usage, population,  economic sector, tourism, public security, health, strategic and structural development planning particularly on land usage and environmental issues, to list down a few. During the Question and Answer session, the SOCA team members had  benefitted enormously from the facts delivered by both officers. Several important facts  delivered during the briefing session that could be briefly documented were as follows: 

  • Cameron Highlands is located 1,829 metres above the sea level.  
  • The temperature is between 10 and 20 degree Celcius. 
  • Cameron Highlands has 3 sub-districts (occupying area): Ulu Tenom (89.84 percent), Tanah Rata (2.91 percent), and Ringlet (7.25 percent). 
  • Population: 42,000 thousand people consisting of Malaysians (85.2 percent); Non-Malaysians (14.8 percent). 
  • Ethnicity: Bumiputera (41.1 percent), Chinese (36.9 percent), Indian (21.2 percent), and Others  (0.8 percent) 
  • People categories as in poverty: 0.4 percent (2019) 
  • Health facilities: one hospital, eight clinics. 
  • Information on strategic planning for tourism purpose in Cameron Highlands.
  • Strategic Development Framework: Land usage, risk management, community  wellbeing, agricultural-based industries, sustainable development, criminal index and good governance.  
  • Structural Planning for the State of Pahang, particularly on Cameron Highlands. The briefing, Q & A, and photography sessions ended at 11.00 a.m. 

2. Department of Orang Asli Development (JAKOA) 

The meeting and briefing of the Orang Asli affairs and villages within Cameron Highlands district jurisdiction were held around 11.30 a.m. at the JAKOA office, temporarily located at Kampung Sg Ruil, Cameron Highlands, Pahang. Encik Amirul  Azwan Bin Zakaria, JAKOA officer was responsible for the Orang Asli affairs in  Cameron Highlands. During the briefing session, several issues in disputes such as land ownership, property rights, education, economy, health, development, the role of  JAKOA as a government agency in facilitating various affairs of Orang Asli and other  related issues were discussed. In the briefing session we were informed of the facts which could be summarised as follows:  

  1. Total of Orang Asli villages: 27 
  2. Total of Orang Asli families: 2,043 
  3. Total of population: 8,081 
  4. Division of jurisdiction and number of villages:  
    • Tanah Rata: 2 villages 
    • Lembah Bertam, Ringlet: 3 villages 
    • Rancangan Pengumpulan Semula (RPS Terisu): 4 villages 
    • Pusat Pentadbiran Kecil (Pos Lemoi): 3 villages
    • Pusat Pentadbiran Kecil (Pos Menson): 5 villages 
    • Pusat Pentadbiran Kecil (Pos Telanok): 10 villages 

The briefing, Q & A, and photography sessions ended at 13.00 p.m. Later in the evening, the SOCA team members managed to walk around in the Orang Asli settlements, namely Kampung Ruil, Kampung Orang Asli Mension, and Kampung  Orang Asli Leryar. 

Future Plans 

As for future planning, the SOCA department together with USIDAR will work on the  following options or strategies;  

  1. Prepare a research proposal to explore various issues or affairs of Orang Asli
  2. Secure grants for Orang Asli project. 
  3. Conduct fieldwork exercises in the Orang Asli villages or settlements for teaching and learning purposes. 
  4. Design community engagement programmes in Orang Asli villages.
  5. Encourage SOCA students’ participation in the fieldwork exercise and community engagement activities. 
  6. Develop applied or practical modules on various issues relating to Orang Asli affairs. 
  7. Organise conference, seminars, round-table discussions, and academic publications. 
  8. Come up with other possible strategies that could benefit the department and USIDAR for future undertakings. 


The SOCA-SAP 2023 in relation to Orang Asli Project (OAP) in Cameron Highlands is not the only academic activities designed by the SOCA Department. In fact, it is a  springboard for other SOCA-SAP 2023 initiatives that could be crafted for. The SOCA department would be delighted to work with other interested parties on this project and adopt inter-disciplinary approaches. Such findings would be great for us and the SOCA Department in particular, to have a holistic view or understanding, prior to designing any practical modules for the Orang Asli community. Socrates once mentioned ‘The first step to knowledge is to know that we are ignorant’. This project is the beginning for future undertakings to attain knowledge. ***

(Assoc. Prof. Dr. Noor Azlan Mohd Noor is an academic in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, AbdulHamid AbuSulayman Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences.)


I. Courtesy Visit to the Cameron Highlands District and Land Office, Pahang.

Photo 1: SOCA Team Members at Cameron Highlands District and Land Office Meeting Room, Pahang. 
Photo 2: SOCA Team Members at Cameron Highlands District and Land Office Meeting Room, Pahang.
Photo 3: Briefing Session by
En. Muhammad Shukri Bin Abd. Aziz, Chief Assistant Director Officer (ADO) 
Photo 4: Exchange of Souvenirs 
Photo 5: Photography Session: SOCA Members and Cameron Highlands District and Land Office Staff 

II. Visit and Community Engagement to the Department of Orang Asli Development (JAKOA-Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli

Photo 6: SOCA Team Members at JAKOA Office, Cameron Highlands, Pahang.
Photo 7: Briefing Session on JAKOA by Encik Amirul Azwan Bin Zakaria, JAKOA Officer for Cameron Highlands District. 
Photo 8: Q and A session with Encik Amirul Azwan Bin Zakaria
Photo 9: Photography Session: SOCA Team Members and En. Amirul Azwan (JAKOA Officer) 
Photo 10: Photography Session: SOCA Team Members and En. Amirul Azwan (JAKOA Officer)
Photo 11: Exchange of Souvenirs (SOCA & JAKOA)

III. Site-Visit to Orang Asli Villages 

Photo 12: Kampung Orang Asli Sungai Ruil, Cameron Highlands, Pahang.
Photo 13: Kampung Orang Asli Pos Mension, Cameron Highlands, Pahang