Panelist rubbishes govt’s reason for deaths in Kg Kuala Koh

Panelist rubbishes govt’s reason for deaths in Kg Kuala Koh

PETALING JAYA: A forum panelist rubbished the government’s revelation that the deaths of the 15 people of the Batek tribe in Kampung Kuala Koh in Gua Musang, Kelantan was due to measles.

Senior dermatologist consultant Dr Steven Chow KS brushed off the official narrative based on the findings done through a medical camp that he jointly conducted with a group of doctors.

Dr Steven Chow KS conducted medical camp weeks prior to the tragedy that befell the Batek community.

“We conducted a medical camp on April 28 before the deaths took place involving 140 patients.  There were none suffering from measles,” said Dr Chow.

“There were worm infection cases, skin infection, fungal infection, cases of children malnutrition and there was a case of the Batin’s son who had slurred speech,” he added.

He said this during a forum entitled “What has led to the Kuala Koh catastrophe?”, organised by Centre for Malaysian Indigenous Studies (CMIS) at University Malaya on Friday evening.

On June 17, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad claimed that the death of the 15 indigenous people Kuala Koh was due to a measles outbreak.

Chow further pointed that he and his team of doctors who were there would have been able to diagnose the Batek tribe members even if they had measles as claimed by the government.

He also raised doubts the quality of water in Kuala Koh which was sugar coated by the media and ran contrary to the realities on the ground.

“The official narrative from the government states that the quality of water complies with national standards.  The water is full of shit.  It was not suitable for consumption.,” he said.

Chow said this based on the geographical location of the village that is close to the river and sandwiched by palm oil plantation and a mining area.

“The narrative from the government is incomplete.  We don’t know where they collected the water samples.  How high is the iron and manganese (in the water)?”

“The manganese affects the brain and causes infant mortality.”

He also raised doubts over the number of deaths recorded.

“I doubt that there were 15 deaths. The death of the Batin was not recorded.  The death rates of individual families were too high.  They were mostly young adults.  Why is there familial clustering of deaths?

“We feel that they were all clustered in one area,” he said.

He also raised questions over post-mortem reports and did not rule out the possibility of a plague.

“Where are the post-mortem and toxicology reports of the eight who died?  Measles caused the death of three and another two died of lobar pneumonia.

“Only 37 out of 112 Bateks tested positive for measles.  The majority had no pneumonia.  We should look at the possibility of a plague.”

Other speakers in this forum include Orang Asli Development Department (JAKOA) director Dr Juli Edo and Bar Council’s Orang Asli Rights committee chairman Siti Kasim. Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC) director Colin Nicholas and two academics.

The academics include socio-cultural anthropologist Dr Ivan Tacey, who has done research on the Orang Asli community in Malaysia extensively.

Chiba University research fellow Dr Aya Kawai joined the three – hour discussion session via Skype.

By: K Pragalath