GUA MUSANG - Two weeks after the mysterious disappearance of seven orang asli children and with few clues on their whereabouts, anguish and allegations are mounting that the search effort started too late.
Midah Angah, the mother of two of the seven missing pupils of SK Tohoi, said she felt as if nothing could be done to save her children despite a massive search operation now under way.
"I think the efforts came too late. I believe my children are dead because they do not have the skills to stay this long in the jungle," she said in an interview.
She described her two missing children - 10-year-old Norieen and eight year-old Haikal - as manja (spoiled) and that she loved to dote on them.
Midah's husband died of tuberculosis eight years ago. They have seven children - the missing duo are the youngest.
"I am grateful to the authorities who are looking for my children but they should have started the big search the day they went missing.
"It's only now that I see them going all out and I fear it is too late."
Midah, 38, said there were many holes in the fence at the hostel grounds which made it easy for the children to run off into the forest.
SK Tohoi is 50km from here and is only accessible from the main road by four-wheel drive vehicles or motorcycles.
The school opened in 1982 and is managed by the Department of Orang Asli Development.
It now has 225 pupils and 15 teachers.
On Aug 23, Norieen and Haikal, together with Mirsudiar Aluj, 11, Ika Ayel, nine, Sasa Sobrie, eight, Linda Rosli, eight, and Juvina David, seven, fled into a forest reserve to escape from punishment for swimming in the nearby river without permission.
A scant search and rescue operation was mounted three days after a missing persons report was lodged.
More than 100 policemen, personnel from Rela, Fire and Rescue and Civil Defence departments and 180 orang asli residents began to look for the pupils.
They were joined on Friday by 200 soldiers.
A Fire and Rescue Department helicopter flew over the search area yesterday.
It is learnt that getting more manpower was a problem as many of the personnel and resources in the area had been ordered to be on standby for the Bersih 4 rally and could not join the search.
Calls by the Kelantan Orang Asli Youth Network to rope in the Senoi Praaq unit from the police General Operations Force were not entertained although the unit comprises orang asli familiar with the search area.
The only clue found so far has been a stocking discovered near the Sungai Mas bridge, Simpang Gemala, here on Tuesday.
OCPD Supt Saiful Bahri Abdullah said the torn stocking was likely discarded by one of the seven pupils before they continued with their journey.
He said that following the discovery, the search and rescue parties were now concentrating their efforts near Sungai Mas, about 2km from SK Tohoi.