Police have arrested at least 32 Orang Asli activists in the crackdown on the community's anti-logging blockade in the interiors of Gua Musang, Kelantan.
Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Kelantan (Jkoak) representative Jamali Ayau said those arrested have been taken to a school near Pos Petei.
When contacted, Gua Musang police confirmed the crackdown but could not say the total number arrested.
Lawyer Siti Kasim, who represents some of the blockade activists, said 18 have been arrested so far.
Jamali herself was later arrested by cops with 13 others, bringing the total arrest to 32, according to Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia (Jkoasm) coordinator Tijah Yok Chopil.
They were later taken to Gua Musang district police headquarters.
Siti in a Facebook post criticised the crackdown.
"I am very upset and angry. All of us must rise against this treatment towards our indigenous people.
"They are doing us a favour in protecting our forest," she said.
Malaysiakini understands some 100 personnel from the police's General Operations Forces (GOF) were mobilised for the operation and were accompanied by Kelantan Foresty Department officers.
They arrived at the blockade near noon time in at least 27 Foresty Department four wheel drive vehicles and eight GOF land rovers.
Foresty Department officers allegedly destroyed the blockade with chainsaws while the Orang Asli activists were negotiating with the authorities.
The mobile phones and video camera of the Orang Asli activists were also confiscated, as well as four motorcycles.
The blockade at Balah Forest Reserve was erected in October to stop logging, which the Orang Asli community said had affected their water source.
Orang Asli villagers from Pos Balah, Gua Musang, said they were willing to sacrifice their lives to protect their blockade at Balah Forest Reserve.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia in a statement said it was saddened by the the arrests.
"SAM urges the authorities to quickly explain (the arrest) and protect the rights of the Orang Asli community," said its president SM Mohamed Idris.
Mohamed said the authorities had not given adequate justification for the arrests.
Meanwhile, Persatuan Pembangunan Orang Asli Malaysia (Moada) president Bob Manolan Mohamad urged the authorities to immediately release the Orang Asli activists.
"I call for their immediate freedom as they have families to care for. Who is going to feed them?
"Why the necessity to confiscate their motorcycles too?" he said.
Bob also questioned whether Kelantan Deputy Menteri Besar Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah will make good on his word to visit the Orang Asli community to negotiate the issue.
While the Kelantan government had gazetted the land where the Orang Asli community live, it does not recognise the community's customary land where they roam and rely on for sustenance.
The Kelantan government insisted the logging activities were a legitimate source of state revenue but the Orang Asli community said this was destroying their livelihoods as they lived off the land.- Mkini