Often referred to as “Sea Gypsies”, the Bajau Laut is a stateless boat dwelling nomadic group, which lives off the sea through trading and subsistence fishing. Today the Sama-Bajau population born and living primarily at sea is diminishing, with many moving to the mainland to seek work. The close proximity to the Southern Philippines and the home to the Abu Sayyag, a Muslim extremist network with international links has seen the movements of the Bajau people restricted due to recent kidnappings in the area and associated curfews enforced by the Malaysian Military. Combine this with ongoing challenges, including a high dependence upon marine resources and depleting trade and food sources. There are also outside pressures for cultural assimilation and modernization, presenting more reasons for many of the local sea gypsies to abandon their culture and lifestyle and move to nearby towns to find work.
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