• development;
  • indigenes;
  • land rights;
  • Malaysia;
  • nongovernmental organizations


The Malaysian government regards the country's indigenous peoples as “backward” and in need of “modernization.” It aims to assimilate them into the so-called mainstream society and to incorporate their lands and resources into national and global markets. These policy objectives leave little scope for indigenous groups to pursue their own life projects. Indigenous communities want to share in the benefits of economic development, but they are not prepared to give up their lands, cultures, and identities to obtain them. They have attempted to ward off the negative consequences of development projects by forming advocacy nongovernmental organizations, engaging in various forms of resistance, and seeking redress of their grievances in the courts. Most of all, they want recognition of their rights to land and place. The efficacy of their agency is severely hampered by a battery of repressive laws and by their own political weakness.