KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 — The Health Ministry will only exhume upon request the bodies of the Orang Asli from Gua Musang who died following an infection that reportedly killed 14, Dzulkefly Ahmad said today.
Speaking at a press conference at the Gua Musang Hospital today, the health minister said that the only hurdle the government is facing is in identifying the locations where the bodies were buried.
“We already have two post-mortems. That is sufficient to represent the rest. However, if there is a request, we definitely can exhume. No problem.
“We are more than willing, but we do not know where exactly they buried them,” he said when asked if the ministry would consider exhuming corpses of several members of the Bateq tribe of the Orang Asli community in Kuala Koh.
Unity and Social Wellbeing Minister P. Waytha Moorthy, who was also present at the press conference, said that 14 Orang Asli members from the tribe had died, including the recent two deaths recorded by the government attributed to pneumonia.
Waytha Moorthy explained that the rest of the deceased had died when they were travelling on foot between Kelantan and Jerantut, Pahang, while they were sick.
“So it is their nature that when they are very sick, they don’t live in the village, so they were on the move.
“As they were on the move, deaths occurred and they buried them in the forest itself, and they have given a list of names of those who have died, and have been buried in the forest,” he told media members.
News of the Orang Asi deaths in Kuala Koh has raised concerns of disease outbreaks, but the government said the deaths were due to pneumonia, and is yet to ascertain as to why or how the deceased Orang Asli members developed the condition.
Earlier, the Kelantan government denied claims that the spread of pneumonia among the Batek tribe in Kampung Kuala Koh was due to mining activities.
Bernama reported Kelantan Deputy Mentri Besar Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah saying that reports from the state’s Health Department showed that in this case the pneumonia was an airborne disease, and not due to water.
Bernama reported that when asked if the state government had approved any mining activities at the settlement, Mohd Amar, who is also the state Public Administration, Regional Development, People’s Well-being and Integrity Committee chairman, reportedly said the state government is checking with the Lands and Mine Office (PTG).
The report said that he however, evaded questions as to whether there were illegal mining activities in the Kuala Koh.