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A Gua Musang District Health Department medical officer administering a vaccine on a Bateq Orang Asli baby in Kampung Kuala Koh on Tuesday. BERNAMA PIC

KUALA LUMPUR: The Home Ministry will consider suggestions to form an inquest to investigate the deaths of 15 members of the Bateq Orang Asli tribe in Kuala Koh, Gua Musang.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Mohd Azis Jamman said any decision on this matter would be made once the ministry received the complete autopsy and chemistry reports on the deaths.

“We are waiting for the pathology reports on the case. We do not discount the possibility that an inquest will be held on the deaths,” he said.

Azis, who was speaking at the Dewan Rakyat, was responding to a question from Ramli Mohd Nor (Barisan Nasional-Cameron Highlands), who had asked the ministry to initiate an inquest into the case to enable the Coroner’s Court to make a decision on the matter.

Prior to this, the Health Ministry had announced that the deaths of the Bateq tribesmen were due to measles.

Azis said based on preliminary investigations, there were no criminal elements involved in the deaths.

However, he said, should any evidence of foul play arise, the police would open an investigation paper.

“Police are conducting Op Batek by mounting roadblocks to the area of the incident to prevent intrusions. The site has yet to be given the all-clear.”

Between May and last month, 15 people from the tribe died from what was initially thought to be “mysterious causes”.

However, a probe by the Health Ministry showed that a measles outbreak was to blame for their deaths.

Locals in Kuala Koh, however, believed that the Bateq people had fallen ill due to the presence of mines and industries in the area, which they claimed had been contaminating their water supply.

The authorities, including the Department of Environment and Health Ministry, as well as the Mineral and Geoscience Department, have collected water samples from four locations surrounding Kuala Koh.

In Gua Musang, 230 Orang Asli residents, including members of the Bateq tribe from Kampung Pasir Linggi, Pos Lebir, were given vaccinations to prevent the spread of measles up to Tuesday, Bernama reported.

Kelantan/Terengganu Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa) director Hashim Alang Abdul Hamid said 434 Orang Asli in Gua Musang had received the vaccinations.

He said the Gua Musang District Health Department personnel were carrying out vaccinations on 204 Bateq tribe members in Kampung Kuala Koh and Kampung Aring 5 over the weekend.

However, he said, 109 Orang Asli residents had yet to receive the vaccine. Among them are 66 people from Kampung Pasir Linggi and 37 from Kampung Aring 5, who were in the jungle. Another six people in Kampung Kuala Koh were not given the vaccine as they were experiencing health problems.

He said cooperation on the vaccination programme was the highest recorded due to concerns about the spread of infectious diseases.

Kampung Pasir Linggi tok batin (village elder) Bolek Lilin, 75, said the Orang Asli villagers were waiting to be vaccinated, as well as take part in healthcare programmes.

He said this was because they were concerned about the spread of infectious diseases.

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