The Orang Asli were previously referred to as the derogatory term Sakai which meant slave or dependent.
According to the Encyclopedia of Malaysia, the Negritos, who number approximately 2,000, are regarded as the earliest inhabitants of the Malay Peninsula.
In response to this encroachment, the Orang Asli mobilised and formed the Peninsular Malaysia Orang Asli Association (POASM), which has given them a stronger voice and greater visibility.
The Orang Asli are now known as "Orang Kita" ('our people') following the introduction of the "One Malaysia" concept by Najib Razak.
In June 2007, an Orang Asli church was allegedly torn down by the state government in Gua Musang, Kelantan.
As of 2008, a suit has been filed against the Kelantan state authorities.
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After independence, development of the Orang Asli became a prime objective of the government, and in 1961 a policy was adopted to integrate the Orang Asli into the wider Malaysian society.