The Orang Asli in the small town of Pantai, near Seremban, are worried that the mysterious death of Irish teenager Nora Anne Quoirin would take a toll on their livelihoods.
The disappearance of the 15-year-old girl and the subsequent discovery of her body after a 10-day search received worldwide attention and the Orang Asli community is wondering if the bad publicity will turn tourists away.
Most of the Orang Asli work at the nine eco-resorts in the area. Warned by the police and their employers not to talk to the press about the case, they spoke to The Malaysian Insight on condition of anonymity.
A man who works at the resort next to The Dusun on Pantai Hill, where Nora stayed with her family, said he is unsure if tourists would still visit the town after this.
“Because of the resorts here, we have been able to find work and help our families. For many years we have been working for them, apart from selling fruits from the jungle. We were able to get a side income at the resorts for our families.
“I am not sure if this place is going to be packed again. The news (has spread) worldwide, not just in the country. It may cost us but I am not sure to what extent,” he said.
Nora and her family arrived at The Dusun resort on August 3 for a two-week vacation. She was found missing the following morning.
Her body was found some 2km away from the resort on August 13, after a 10-day search.
Another man who works as a trekking guide said he might have to get another job.
“Tourists will be afraid to come here again. There were people who got lost before but they were rescued. This time around, it’s different.
“Hopefully things will get better but if it does not, I will need to find another job,” said the villager in his 20s.
The Orang Asli in the area are of the Temuan tribe. There are about 100 of them living at the Kampung Air Kolam settlement on the outskirts of Pantai town, population 4,000.
An elderly woman from the tribe said most of her children work at the resorts as they have not been able to secure jobs in Seremban.
“It is not easy for us to work in town. Many of the youngsters did not finish school. They preferred to work rather than study.
“Many of them work here at the resorts. They enjoy working here and besides, they can make extra money by selling fruits and vegetables.
“For now, we cannot be sure (what will happen). We are waiting to see what is going to happen. Will this place continue to draw in the crowds? Only time will tell,” said the mother of three.
A local villager who introduced himself as Vijay, meanwhile, said there has never been a case like Nora’s in the area, though many hikers have been known to lose their way in the rainforest of Jeram Toi.
“I have stayed here for many years and I do jungle trekking myself. There have been many cases of hikers getting lost in the forest but they were found and rescued.
“This is the first time that someone had been found dead in this area. My in-laws who are the natives here had never encountered such an incident.
“We feel sorry for the family…it is their first time here. It was not supposed to end this way,” said the 53-year-old taxi driver.
Vijay felt Nora was lured out of her room but added that the case is still a mystery.
“From what I have read, there was no evidence of her being lured, but how did she get out of her villa if not by being taken away by someone. There must be someone involved, but that’s only my thoughts on the matter,” he said.
Vijay added that for the past 10 years, the Dusun Pantai Hill eco-resort has been a popular destination for tourists from all around the world.
“During weekends, this place is full of people. Local and foreign, but mostly foreigners from Japan, Europe, America and other places.
“There has been no problem before and everyone enjoyed this place because of its natural resources and the view,” he said.
A post mortem on the remains revealed that Nora died of starvation. She had a ruptured intestine as a result of not eating for days.
The body was found near a small stream which is not accessible by vehicles.
Another local villager said Nora would still be alive if the search and rescue teams had found her tracks earlier.
Pak Halim, a retiree said despite hearing many mysterious stories surrounding the incident, he pointed out that the body was found not far from where she got lost.
“I cannot explain how she got out (of the resort), but the fact that the body was found not far from the resort tells us everything. That she did not walk deep into the rainforest.
“Of course locals here believe something else but if only the rescuers were able to locate her much earlier, she would still be alive.
“We sympathise with the family for having to go through this. I believe everyone had tried their best to help just that they were not lucky this time,” said the 67-year-old.
Nora arrived in Malaysia with her father Sebastian Philipe, her sister Innes, 12, and brother Maurice, eight. They had come from London. Her mother, Meabh, flew in from Singapore.
Her family had insisted that Nora was abducted but police classified the case as a missing person’s report as there was no evidence of abduction.
Police also searched more than 30 houses in the vicinity and ran checks on suspected criminals near the resort.
In the 10-day operations, more than 300 police personnel were deployed including the elite VAT69 commandos and trekkers from the Senoi Praaq unit.
According to reports, French police have opened criminal investigations into the case. – TMI
Aug 13, Parents Confirm Body Is Nora
Aug 13, Search for Nora Enters 10th Day