“Bajau” Sea People of Mabul Malaysia

The Plight of the Bajau Sea People

December 2019


Bajau Wiki


While in Mabul I learned about the sea nomads or sea gypsies of Malaysia. I had never heard of them before coming to Mabul.


My information comes from Scuba Junkies and the following is what they told me.


When I first arrived on Mabul, I noticed the shack houses over the water. These houses remind me of the ones in the Philippines. They are made of pretty much whatever is available and laying around I suppose. Metal sheeting and old timbers. So I was curious and started asking questions.


Approximately, 10 years ago the government of Malaysia decided to take the sea people’s boats and they were forced to move onto land. Mind you they have no country, no birth certificate, no passport or healthcare. I was completely floored.


They are legally not allowed to work, as they’re not citizens. They can’t go to school and even when various charities try to run a school the government shuts them down.


They primarily make their money from the sea. I believe they sell their fish in the market of Semporna.


Scuba Junkies helps out where they can. They allow some of the families to sell their crochet creations in the dinning hall. One of the staff at SJ taught some of the girls how to crochet and it took off from there. They make all kinds of things, from octopus to mermaids to turtles. It’s pretty good money for the families.


The sea peoples are lovely. They are kind and curious about you. The children are happy and well feed. If your up for it, they will even invite you to dinner.


It’s truly sad the situation they find themselves in.

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