The Orang Laut are several seafaring ethnic groups and tribes living around Singapore, peninsular Malaysia and the Riau Islands. The Orang Laut are commonly identified as the Orang Seletar from the Straits of Johor, but the term may also may refer to any Malay origin people living on coastal islands, including those of Andaman Sea islands of India and those in Thailand and Burma, commonly known as Moken.
An Orang Laut family living in a boat, circa 1914–1921.
|Regions with significant populations|
|Loncong language, Orang Seletar language, Malay language|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Orang Kuala, Orang Seletar, Sama-Bajau, Moken, Urak Lawoi’ people|
The Malay term orang laut literally means "sea peoples". The Orang Laut live and travel in their boats on the sea. 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.
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. The earliest description of the Orang Laut may have been by the 14th century Chinese traveller Wang Dayuan who described the inhabitants of Temasek (present day Singapore) in his work Daoyi Zhilüe.
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".
- 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): 143–151. doi:10.2307/2049739. JSTOR 2049739.
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