The Batek at Kuala Koh, post-flood

Published: 09 February 2015

CN-COAC | 9 February 2015

We made a short visit to the Batek community at Kuala Koh, Kelantan on 5 February to assess their situation and to keep in touch. 

Soon after the flood, two teams from the JOAS flood relief effort visited them and provided initial aid. Several other NGOs and individuals have also done so, as has the government.

The Kuala Koh community is actually two distinct family groups in two hamlets. The Tom Balai group lived closer to the Sungai Pertang, a tributary of the Lebir River. 

The bamboo huts and lean-to's in this hamlet were completely submerged during the height of the floods.The people were forced to locate to high ground a couple of kilometres closer to the outer Kuala Koh community.

Sometimes called Kuala Koh Baru, this settlement is the (government) sanctioned village site. Located close to the road leading to the northern entrance to Taman Negara, a number of PPRT houses and a water filtration system were built here (thought the latter never really operated as planned). Howveer, many of the families still lived in bamboo-and-attap huts.

For a glimpse of the community and settlement before the flood, please go to:

Eventhough this village was on a relatively high ground, all the PPRT houses were inundated with mud and water almost up to the ceiling. The group here actually moved 3 times to higher ground each time, before they were confident they were high enough from the rising waters.

The community has settled into their traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle and have taken the whole episode in their stride. Water is still a problem, especially for the Tom Balai group. But perhaps the greatest worry and threat to their wellbeing is the lack of security over their traditional lands.

Already having had to give up much of their customary territories to Felda and Ladang Rakyat for oil palm plantations, now even their 'sanctioned' site where they have been located are being converted to more oil palm plantations.

The Batek here can cope with major floods and similar disasters. But they seem to be powerless against the greed and destructiveness of the powers-that-be.

Click on this link for the photo album: