MORE than 150 Orang Asal (indigenous peoples of Malaysia) gathered at the Annexe Central Market in Kuala Lumpur at 10.30am on 13 Sept 2008. Their intention was to march peacefully to the palace, where they would submit a memorandum to the King. The march was, however, thwarted, and its leaders threatened with arrest by the police.
The gathering was organised in conjunction with the first anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIPS). The declaration is a set of provisions to safeguard the rights of over 370 million indigenous peoples in 70 countries, providing for the protection of their cultures, land, and way of life.
Under Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, the King has the power and responsibility to safeguard the rights and special privileges of the indigenous peoples. The memorandum to the King calls for the Malaysian government to honour its agreement to uphold the rights of the Orang Asal, including the right to self determination, the recognition of the separate identity and culture of the indigenous peoples, and the recognition of customary land. These rights have been outlined in DRIPS, which the Malaysian government has voted for and adopted, but has not necessarily enforced.