Arguing against Malays’ ‘Sundaland origins’

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via the Malay Mail, 12 August 2018: An editorial from The Malay Mail weighing in on the ludicrous and racist claims by Zaharah Sulaiman on the origins of the Malays as the progenitor of a good portion of modern human populations. There is fringe and pseudo-archaeology, and then there is factually inaccurate archaeology that has very dangerous consequences on society if not enough people speak up about it.

Regardless, proponents of the “Malays Out of Sundaland” hypothesis completely ignored the fact that the “Malay” term frequently used in Malaysia is but a social construct: solely defined in the Constitution as Muslim natives who practise the Malay culture.

This definition has since been used to justify various affirmative action policies and special positions, and eventually but unfortunately, racism against others who should be afforded the same status as citizens following the formation of Malaysia.

The “Malays” is not a distinct race uniquely different from the others, but if taken as a general term would include a melange of ethnicities and backgrounds from the Malay lands.

And the eventual stinging rebuttal from five academics who worked on human population genetics, archaeology and history against Zaharah’s “Malay genes oldest” claim only serves to undermine the hypothesis.

Source: Arguing against Malays’ ‘Sundaland origins’ | Malay Mail

Rebutting the myth that Malays have the second oldest genes in the world


Malaysia has a complex history of ethnonationalism, in which people who are identified as Malay (but more accurately native Malaysians) are given special privileges over other ethnic groups in the country. This has led to a number of social, economic and political problems but the one that I want to highlight here is the misuse of science and archaeological research to advance this agenda. Last week, a historian speaking at the ominously named “The Origins of the Malay” forum “quoted” the work of the Human Genome Organisation and said that after the Africans, the Malays have the second oldest genetic lineages in the world, even going so far as to imply that the Malays were ultimately responsible for establishing the Chinese and Greek civilizations.

DNA strand. Image by Caroline Davis2010

Image by Caroline Davis2010

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In Malaysia, attempts to use archaeology to uncover the origins of race


Once again, the debate in Malaysia of the origin of the ‘Malay’ ‘race’ using poorly understood and misused archaeology.

REALLY? Malays are not ‘PENDATANG’ – panellist
Malaysia Chronicle, 30 January 2015

Facts based on researches in the fields of DNA, folklores and archaeology has proven that Malays are not “pendatang” as claimed by some parties.

“We are not immigrants, and we have facts to prove it,” said one of the panellists during the Bestari Institute of the Malay World and Civilization (Atma) Talk Forum on “Melayu Bukan Pendatang” today, chairman of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka and University Science Malaysia (USM) Ombudsman Prof Datuk Seri Dr Md. Salleh Yaapar.

“In Nov 2012, Dhamma speaker Datuk Dr Ananda Kumaraseri wrote in the New Straits Times that the origin of the Malays is traced to Tibet and the Yunnan Plateau, and some others claim that we are from China and Taiwan.

“But through folklore studies, which is my field of expertise, we have found out otherwise. In fact, the aboriginal tribes from Taiwan are all descendent of settlers from around the Malay Archipelago, their legends say that their forefathers came from the south, from the aboriginal race, and that race is Malayan,” he added.

Full story here.

Categories: Malaysia Politics


Seminar on the Pyu raises ethnic tensions

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A recent seminar on the archaeology of the Pyu, a group of city-states located in central Myanmar, raises some controversy because of suggestions that they once dominated the Mon city-states of lower Myanmar. This tension between the relations between the Pyu and Mon people have led to calls for better research into the archaeology of the Mon and the Pyu.

Excavations at Sru Ksetra, Myanmar Time 20121210

Excavations at Sru Ksetra, Myanmar Time 20121210

Pyu seminar restarts Mon debate
Myanmar Times, 10 December 2012
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Untangling myth and reality from Malaysia's history


Besides the “startling” news about the origins of the human race, another stir over the history of Malaysia was raised last week when eminent Malaysian historian Professor Khoo Kay Khim declared that some of the characters and stories in Malaysia’s national historical narrative were probably mythical or did not actually exist. Among those figures was the warrior Hang Tuah and the Chinese princess Hang Li Po.

Sculpture of Hang Tuah at the Malaysian National History Museum, wikicommons image

Sculpture of Hang Tuah at the Malaysian National History Museum, wikicommons image

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The human race from proto-Malays? Prove it.


Sometimes a story appears that is so stupid, so inane, that you just have to rant about it. The Malaysian Insider, an online newspaper, today published a story about how some archaeologists have claimed through their “scientific” studies that they have traced the lineage of humankind to the proto-Malay race. This is total bull.

Study claims human race came from Proto-Malays
The Malaysian Insider, 20 January 2012
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Thailand pulls out of Unesco

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The big news over the weekend is Thailand’s withdrawal from the Unesco World Heritage Convention, after the World Heritage committee supposedly decided to accept Cambodia’s management plan (The plan was apparently tabled for discussion). It looks like Thailand has upped the ante now, and with their withdrawal it means that their country no longer has to comply with Unesco rulings. I wonder how this withdrawal will affect their relations with Cambodia and also, what their resignation means for their other world heritage sites like Ban Chiang, Ayutthaya and Sukhothai. Also, how does the current Thai elections, scheduled for this Sunday, fit into this issue?

Border villagers living in fear
Bangkok Post, 27 June 2011

Cabinet to discuss WHC implications
Bangkok Post, 27 June 2011

Thailand withdraws from World Heritage Convention
VOV News, 27 June 2011

UNESCO Director-General regrets the announcement of Thailand’s intention to denounce the 1972 World Heritage Convention
Unesco Press, 26 June 2011

Thai leader defends leaving UN heritage site body
AP, via Today, 26 June 2011

Thailand quits heritage body amid temple row
AFP, via Saigon Giai Phong, 26 June 2011

Thailand pulls out of World Heritage Convention
MCOT, 26 June 2011

Government to pull out of WHC
Bangkok Post, 26 June 2011

Thailand threatens to quit World Heritage group
Bangkok Post, 25 June 2011

Preah Vihear plan set for UNESCO review
Phnom Penh Post, 24 June 2011
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The politics behind Preah Vihear

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I like Al Jazeera. As a news network, I’ve found the overage to be pretty good, especially when compared to the other western, more established networks (*cough* CNN). In this feature piece, the politics behind the conflict at Preah Vihear is discussed, with particular focus on the Thai side of the border.

Preah Vihear, wikicommons image

Who does the Preah Vihear temple belong to?
Al Jazeera, 04 June 2011
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Politics of archaeology: The case of Sri Lanka

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This interesting article from The Times underscores the politics of archaeology in Sri Lanka and the conflict between the ethnic Tamil minority and Sinhalese majority in the country. One complaint from the ethnic Tamil minority is the emphasis on finding and discovering Buddhist sites associated with the Sinhalese to bolster the claim of a Sinhalese homeland, as well as the marginalisation of minority archaeologists and Hindu sites to weaken claims against a Tamil homeland.

Archaeology sparks new conflict between Sri Lankan Tamils and Sinhalese

The Times, 06 April 2010
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Wednesday Rojak #60 – The Broken Pagoda edition

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It’s truly a rojak edition of rojak – I can’t find a theme to string all these posts through! We’ve got a little bit of stolen gold (photographs, that is), broken pagodas, evolutionists and a bit of twittering.
Chedi restoration - Wat Doi Suthep
photo credit: avlxyz
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