Understanding the experiences of Indigenous minorities through the lens of spatial justice: The case of Orang Asli in Peninsular Malaysia

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Like many Indigenous people around the world, the original inhabitants of Peninsular Malaysia, the Orang Asli, live predominantly in marginal, remote areas, and have below-average levels of education, health and living standards. Their customary reliance on natural forest resources and assets to support their livelihood is threatened by modernization and conversion of land for commercial crops. The main challenge facing the Orang Asli communities has been maintaining this livelihood against encroaching land conversion projects. The weakness of land rights, remoteness and limited access to public services and economic opportunities appear to be major contributors to deprivation. The perspective of spatial justice provides an important conceptual tool to explore spatial and territorial problems facing the Orang Asli. The objective of our study is to document and analyse the life experiences of the Orang Asli, interpreting it through the lens of spatial justice to inform policymaking. A participatory approach using focus groups and participant observation reveals the lived experience of Orang Asli in two villages in Pahang State of Malaysia. The findings of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) reveal the multiple dimensions of deprivation of Orang Asli: income, education, health, nutrition and housing, among others, and underscore the importance the Orang Asli place on education for their individual and community future. The results provide useful insights for policymakers aiming to improve the welfare of Indigenous peoples consistent with preserving their identities and way of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1223-1239
Number of pages17
JournalRegional Science Policy & Practice
Issue number5
Early online date15 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2022


  • capabilities
  • indigenous welfare
  • life experience
  • Malaysia
  • spatial justice


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