Who are the Sambas Malay?

The Sambas Malay people live along the northern coastline of West Kalimantan Province. In their area, the Sambas people live alongside the Dayak and West Kalimantan Chinese people. The Sambas people are the descendents of the Sambas Kingdom. Their language is quite different from that of the neighboring Pontianak Malay and Dayak peoples.

West Kalimantan is located on the island of Borneo, a fertile and mountainous land shared by three nations: Malaysia, Indonesia, and the small country of Brunei Darussalam. The Sambas Malay live in an area bordering Malaysia. They are considered a people group with a distinct identity largely due to their historical ties to the Sambas Kingdom, which was one of the largest kingdoms in West Kalimantan.

What are their lives like?

The Sambas Malay are an agrarian people, who depend on the yield of crops from their farmland. They also harvest freshwater and saltwater fish. Other crops are rice, coconuts, and rubber. Some Sambas Malay also work as civil servants or traders. Efforts to grow citrus trees have restored agricultural business in the area. They have yielded substantial crops of fruit. The Selakau orange usually produces a good crop.

Plans exist to develop the Sambas area as a trade zone between Indonesia and Malaysia. However, infrastructure in the area has not been developed well enough to support such a plan. Two roads, Entikong and Jagoi, already connect West Kalimantan with Sarawak, Malaysia. Entikong is a formal border crossing between Indonesia and Malaysia. On the other hand, Jagoi Street, which is closer to the Sambas area, is not, but residents of the area can enter and exit after going through strict inspections by military units of both nations.

What are their beliefs?

The Sambas Malay are devout followers of Sufi Islam. Syakh Ahmad developed Islam in the Sambas area by combining two different orders of Sufi Islam. In the resulting form of Islam, unique and silent worship creates a balance for vocal chanting. Students of the Qadiriyyah-Naqshbandi Order believe that they can obtain spiritual experiences more easily and quickly by using these practices.

What are their needs?

Destruction of local mangrove forests is expected to result in erosion of the coastline up to 4-5 km. inland. It is already occurring in the Jawai and Paloh districts. This needs to be addressed by both the community and the government. Information needs to be communicated to the local community about the importance of mangrove forests and the negative effects of their destruction.

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