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File:Sea Nomads distribution map.jpg

Regions inhabited by peoples usually known as "Sea Nomads".[1]

The Orang Laut are a group of Malay people living in the Riau Islands of Indonesia. It also may refer to any Malay origin people living on coastal islands, including those of Andaman Sea islands in Sarawak, Borneo, Thailand and Burma, commonly known as Moken.


The Malay term orang laut literally means the sea peoples. The Orang laut live and travel in their boats on the sea.[2] 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 and southern Malay Peninsula.[3]


File:RIAU WEB.jpg

Villages of Orang Laut in Riau Islands.

File:COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Woonschuiten van de Orang-Laoets langs de kusten van Djambi en Riouw varende TMnr 10010489.jpg

House barges of the Orang Laut off the coast of Jambi and Riau, Dutch East Indies. 1914-1921

Historically, the orang laut were principally pirates but they also played important 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.[4]

Eda Green wrote in 1909, "The Lanuns, supposed to have come from the Philippines, are Mohammedans and are dying out; they were one of the most aggressive tribes in their wild piracy, raiding not only the coasts, but stealing away the children of the Dusuns and Ida'an."[5]

Popular Culture[]

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".

See also[]


  1. Template:Cite journal
  2. Template:Cite journal
  3. "The Malay Peninsula and Archipelago 1511–1722" The Encyclopedia of World History 2001;
  4. Mary Somers Heidhues. Southeast Asia: A Concise History. London: Hudson and Thames, 2000. Page 27
  5. Template:Cite web

External links[]

Template:Commonscat Template:Ethnic groups in Indonesia Template:Portal Template:Indonesia-stub Template:Asia-ethno-group-stub