People-in-Country Profile

People Selector:
Print version:
Step 1 - Select a Country:   Send us your updates!
Step 2 - Select a People:  

Semelai in Malaysia


Send us a photo of this people.  [1]

Semelai in Malaysia map
Population [2] Language Religion % Christian % Evangl Online NT Jesus Film Progress
7,400 Semelai Ethnic Religions 5.00 % 0.10 % No No   

Semelai in Malaysia

Profile Text
Submit Profile Text:

Introduction / History
The Semelai are one of the nineteen Orang Asli people groups of Peninsular Malaysia. They are part of the Aboriginal Malay (officially called Proto-Malay) subgroup.

Semelai is literally translated, "man of the land." Archaeological evidence has shown that the Semelai folk have been natives of the land for more than 600 years. They live in the states of Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Selangor, Malacca, and Johor. Most of their villages sit along the wetlands surrounding Lake Bera in Southwest Pahang. Many new settlements have been opened along nearby riverbanks.

What are their lives like?
Prior to government-imposed oil palm and rubber estates, the Semelai were shifting agriculturalists who were also actively trading in minor forest products. They were basically wage-earners. For example, they were employed for clearing the forests to make way for the first rubber plantations in Negeri Sembilan. Today, many of the Semelai settlers have found a new occupation of introducing urban dwellers and other tourists to their way of life in the lake and wetland sanctuary of Lake Bera. This not only supports a diversity of animal and plant life, but also sustains the livelihood of the Semelai tribe. The Semelai have a vast knowledge of plants and their qualities. They are skilled at identifying animals from their tracks. They are well-versed in legends of their traditions, culture, and way of life. They were, and still are, very aquatic and agriculturally oriented. Apart from hunting and fishing, the Semelai also cultivate crops and collect jungle produce. They fish more than hunt. Semelai women are known for their skills in weaving mats. The Semelai, interestingly, have a rich tradition of oral histories, folklore, and mythology. Story telling has long been an important genre of expression in Semelai culture. Myths told at night are believed to describe events that occurred before one's remembered ancestors. Stories, told at any time, are believed to have occurred in the historical past.

What are their beliefs?
Numerous taboos govern the lives of the Semelai who believe in the existence of ghosts and spiritual beings. For instance, the Semelai believe when people are asleep their souls travel to the places they dream about. As in other Orang Asli cultures, dreaming is an important means of divination in Semelai culture. Different kinds of people, spirits, or animals appearing in dreams have different cultural interpretations.

For example, if one dreams of a Chinese asking to marry a particular Semelai girl, that girl is in danger of deadly mishap. If made aware of the dream, she would probably not go out of the house the following day. Although a particular Chinese may be considered dangerous, it can also be good fortune to marry a Chinese man because he is likely to have more money than a Semelai man. She would also benefit from the Chinese social networks in towns.

What are their needs?
The Semelai people are fortunate to find a safe haven in the wetland sanctuary of Lake Bera. However, they need to habituate to their new surrounding. Ask the Creator to send workers to help them develop their surrounding environment. Pray for local believers to relate and respond to all the needs of these people.

View Semelai in all countries.

Prayer Links
  Submit Update:
Country: Malaysia
Continent: Asia
Region: Asia, Southeast
Persecution Rank:46 (Only top 50 ranked, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
10/40 Window: Yes
Location in Country:Peninsular, southwest Pahang and northwest Negeri Sembilan states, Tasek Bera shores area, along Bera, Teriang, and Serting rivers; northwest Johore, Muar river.
(Source: Ethnologue 2016)
  Peoples [3]
Submit Update:
People Name in Country: Semelai
People Name General: Semelai
ROP3 Code: 108824
Joshua Project People ID: 14842
Indigenous: Yes
Population in Country: 7,400
Population all Countries: 7,400
Least-Reached: Yes
Affinity Bloc: Malay Peoples
People Cluster: West Malaysia Indigenous
People Name General: Semelai
Ethnic Code: AUG05
Ethnic Relationships: Affinity Bloc -> People Cluster -> Peoples Ethnicity Tree
Submit Update:
Primary Language: Semelai (7,400 Speakers)
Language Code (ISO): sza    Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages: 1
Religion [4]
Submit Update:
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Major Religions:
Buddhism0.00 % 
Christianity5.00 %(Evangelical: 0.10 %)
Ethnic Religions65.00 % 
Hinduism0.00 % 
Islam30.00 % 
Non-Religious0.00 % 
Other / Small0.00 % 
Unknown0.00 % 
Christianity Segments:
Anglican0.00 %
Independent0.00 %
Protestant60.00 %
Orthodox0.00 %
Other Christian0.00 %
Roman Catholic40.00 %
(Evangelicals distributed across Christianity segments)
Progress Indicators [5]
Progress Scale[6]   Few evangelicals and few who claim to be Christians. Little, if any, history of Christianity.
Least-Reached: Yes
GSEC Status:Level 4   Greater than or equal to 2% Evangelical
Bible Translation Status
Submit Update:
Bible Portions: Help start a Bible Translation
New Testament: None Reported
Complete Bible: None Reported
Ministry Resources [7]
None Reported
Ministry Activity
Register Ministry Activity:
Networking: Visit for networking possibilities.
Description: Register your ministry activity among this people group. Contact the Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse and Unleashed for the Unreached to learn about others that might be focused on this people group.
Data Notes
Data Sources

Semelai in Malaysia

Global                 Global
  Affinity Bloc             Global  
People Cluster
    West Malaysia Indigenous     Asia, Southeast    
      Semelai Malaysia    
            People-by-Country (Profile)          
            Semelai in Malaysia          
      Religion Language  
      Ethnic Religions     Semelai  
    All Religions                              

Direct link: