Malaysia Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said on Sunday (Jun 9) the government is investigating allegations of water pollution after several Orang Asli deaths were reported in Kuala Koh, Gua Musang, Kelantan.
Orang Asli refers to indigenous people of peninsular Malaysia.
Fourteen people in Kuala Koh have died in the past month, according to reports, of which two have been confirmed to be from pneumonia.
“The government will take stern action against the culprits if it is found the deaths were caused by contamination of the Orang Asli water source,” Dr Wan Azizah said in a statement on Sunday.
Dr Wan Azizah also said that the government will look into mining and logging activities in the vicinity to see if all proper procedures in relation to the environment have been adhered to.
“Stricter enforcement and more deterrent measures are some of the steps that must be looked into,” said the deputy prime minister.
“My prayers are with the families of those who perished and those who are currently undergoing treatment,” she added.
“Worried About My Two Daughters”
“I am worried about my two daughters who are experiencing breathing difficulty,” said a single father, Adidas Om, 32, at the Kuala Krai Hospital on Sunday.
Adidas, who is from Kampung Kuala Koh, said that his two daughters – Hoi, 6, and Boi, 5 – had experienced breathing difficulty for four days and could not sleep at night.
He made a report to the Kelantan Orang Asli Development Department (JAKOA) before the agency sent his daughters to hospital.
Adidas, who has lived in Kuala Koh for the last 10 years, said he did not know the cause of the illness.
“Apart from my children, my neighbours are suffering from the same disease and some have died,” he said.
“I’m afraid to see the condition of my children and also the neighbours who are suffering from the disease and I hope situation will improve soon,” said Adidas, whose wife died in 2014.
He said he believes the incident is connected to mining activity around his village and hopes that the related parties will investigate the cause of the disease.
Two Deaths Due To Pneumonia
As of Saturday, 83 Orang Asli residents have taken ill, according to Kelantan State Health Department director Dr Zaini Hussin. He added that based on clinical symptoms and infection, these cases could be pneumonia.
Dr Zaini said currently, prevention and control activities have been carried out by the Gua Musang District Health Office by conducting health education such as talks and distribution of brochures on infectious diseases as well as environmental and personal hygiene.
He said the emphasis was also on the importance of segregation for those with symptoms and active case detection being carried out continuously at the Orang Asli settlement.
“The Health Department also advised to limit the movement of any individuals into the village to prevent the disease from spreading,” he said.
“We will also continue to work with all agencies involved in the management of the prevention and control of this disease,” he added.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P Waytha Moorthy said on Sunday that two of the Orang Asli deaths were due to pneumonia.
“We were informed that the deaths happened due to migration and the bodies were buried within the area. However, the actual cause of deaths will be investigated,” he told reporters.