Orang laut

Orang Laut
اورڠ لاوت

An Orang Laut family living in a boat, circa 1914–1921.
Regions with significant populations
Andaman Archipelago, Peninsular Malaysia, Riau Archipelago, Singapore
Malay language (Orang Laut dialect)
Islam, Animism
Related ethnic groups
Malay people, Moken, Urak Lawoi’ people
Regions inhabited by peoples usually known as "Sea Nomads".[1]
  Orang Laut

The Orang Laut are a group of Malay people living around Singapore, peninsular Malaysia and the Riau Islands. It also may refer to any Malay origin people living on coastal islands, including those of Andaman Sea islands of Thailand and Burma, commonly known as Moken.


The Malay term orang laut literally means the sea peoples. The Orang laut live and travel in their boats on the sea.[2] Another Malay term for them, Orang Selat (literally Straits People), was brought into European languages as Celates.


Broadly speaking, the term encompasses the numerous tribes and groups inhabiting the islands and estuaries in the Riau-Lingga Archipelagos, the Pulau Tujuh Islands, the Batam Archipelago, and the coasts and offshore islands of eastern Sumatra, southern Malaysia Peninsula and Singapore.[3]


Villages of Orang Laut in Riau Islands.
House barges of the Orang Laut off the coast of Jambi and Riau, Dutch East Indies. 1914-1921

Historically, the orang laut played major roles in Srivijaya, the Sultanate of Malacca, and the Sultanate of Johor. They patrolled the adjacent sea areas, repelling real pirates, directing traders to their employers' ports and maintaining those ports' dominance in the area.[4]

In the story "The Disturber of Traffic" by Rudyard Kipling, a character called Fenwick misrenders the Orang laut as "Orange-Lord" and the narrator character corrects him that they are the "Orang-Laut".

See also


  1. David E. Sopher (1965). "The Sea Nomads: A Study Based on the Literature of the Maritime Boat People of Southeast Asia". Memoirs of the National Museum. 5: 389403. doi:10.2307/2051635.
  2. Adriaan J. Barnouw (February 1946). "Cross Currents of Culture in Indonesia". The Far Eastern Quarterly. The Far Eastern Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 2. 5 (2): 143151. doi:10.2307/2049739. JSTOR 2049739.
  3. "The Malay Peninsula and Archipelago 1511–1722" The Encyclopedia of World History 2001;
  4. Mary Somers Heidhues. Southeast Asia: A Concise History. London: Hudson and Thames, 2000. Page 27
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