Jahai people

The Jahai or Jehai people are an indigenous people (Orang Asli) of the Semang people group found in Perak and Kelantan, Malaysia and parts of Thailand. They have dark skin, often curly-hair and Asiatic facial characteristics, and are stockily built.[3] They are hunter-gatherers and they occasionally practice swidden agriculture .[4]

Jahai people
A Jahai community in Royal Belum State Park, Perak, Malaysia.
Regions with significant populations
Malay Peninsula:
 Malaysia (Perak and Kelantan)2,326 (2010)[1]
Jahai language, Malay language
Ethnic religion (predominantly), Islam, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Semang (Batek people, Lanoh people), Negritos (Maniq people, Philippine Negritos, Andamanese)

The Jahai people believe in a religious system with Karei (pronounced "Karεy") as a supernatural force that oversees their actions and behaviours. In order to avoid attracting Karei's attention negatively, there are taboos and avoidance rules to follow. They believe Karei can be scared away or attracted to by various odors depending on Karei's preferences, for example, the unpleasant smell of a burnt crayfish.[5] Therefore this led to a rich odor lexicon in the Jahai language,[5] a trait also shared among the Maniq people in Thailand.[6]

The Jahai people, who are traditionally nomadic, live in permanent settlements in parts of the Royal Belum State Park as part of the tourist attraction. They lived in isolation, and most likely lacking of infrastructure such as roads, schools, health services, and so on.[7] This resulted in exhaustion of resources. The mortality rate of the Jahai people in villages along the Kejar River was as high as 50% in children due to Serawan, which caused the population there to dwindle from 600 to 400.[8][9]

Geographical location of Jahai people (located in Perak near the Kelantan borders) and other Orang Asli communities in Peninsular Malaysia.

The population dynamics of the Jahai people in Malaysia are as the following:-

Year 1960[10] 1965[10] 1969[10] 1974[10] 1980[10] 1993[11] 1996[10] 2000[12] 2003[12] 2004[13] 2010[1]
Population 621 546 702 769 740 1,049 1,049 1,244 1,843 1,843 2,326

Other settlements of the Jahai people in Malaysia are:-


  1. Kirk Endicott (2015). Malaysia's Original People: Past, Present and Future of the Orang Asli. NUS Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-99-716-9861-4.
  2. "Jehai in Thailand". Joshua Project. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  3. Helen Oon (2008). Malaysia. New Holland Publishers. pp. 55–56. ISBN 978-18-453-7971-1.
  4. Douglas Richardson (2017). International Encyclopedia of Geography, 15 Volume Set: People, the Earth, Environment and Technology. John Wiley & Sons. p. 2240. ISBN 978-04-706-5963-2.
  5. Catherine Diederich (2015). Sensory Adjectives in the Discourse of Food: A frame-semantic approach to language and perception. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 23. ISBN 978-90-272-6880-8.
  6. Ed Yong (6 November 2015). "Why Do Most Languages Have So Few Words for Smells?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  7. "Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Human Capital and Knowledge Management" (PDF). ICHCKM. 2015. p. 168. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  8. Shanjeev Reddy (16 February 2016). "The Curse of Serawan". R.AGE. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  9. "Situation of the right to health of indigenous peoples in Asia". Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact. 1 March 2016. Retrieved 2017-07-11.
  10. Nobuta Toshihiro (2009). "Living On The Periphery: Development and Islamization Among Orang Asli in Malaysia" (PDF). Center for Orang Asli Concerns. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  11. Colin Nicholas (2000). The Orang Asli and the Contest for Resources. Indigenous Politics, Development and Identity in Peninsular Malaysia (PDF). Center for Orang Asli Concerns & International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. ISBN 978-87-90730-15-4. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  12. "Basic Data / Statistics". Center for Orang Asli Concerns. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  13. Alberto Gomes (2004). Modernity and Malaysia: Settling the Menraq Forest Nomads. Routledge. ISBN 978-11-341-0076-7.
  14. Ronzi Mohd Yusoff, Joy Jacqueline Pereira, Sharina Abdul Halim, Hood Salleh & Mustaffa Omar. "Kemudahterancaman Perubahan Iklim: Kajian kes Komuniti Jahai di RPS Air Banun, Perak" (PDF). Institut Alam Sekitar dan Pembangunan (LESTARI). Retrieved 2017-07-11.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  15. Dony Adriansyah, Ibrahim Busu, Hafzan Eva & Mohammad Muqtada (15 May 2015). "Geoheritage As The Basis For Geotourism Development: A Case Study In Jeli District, Kelantan, Malaysia" (PDF). GeoJournal of Tourism and Geosites: 35. ISSN 2065-0817. Retrieved 2017-07-11.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

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