The Rest of Sabah

Over the last few weeks, Sabah demanded the attention, thoughts and prayers of Malaysians as a small group of Suluks’ claim to the northern Borneo state of Sabah led to bloodshed in the town of Lahad Datu, shocking a country which has enjoyed many years of peace.

Like most West Malaysians, I knew very little of our Bornean neighbours until my first visit in 2006. What was initially a huge cultural shock quickly transformed into a lifelong love affair thanks to its gorgeous sunsets, soft-spoken people and endless green hills. Over the next few years, I took every opportunity that came to visit Sabah... even to the point of entering a Firefly competition tweeting, "Borneo boys are hot." I won two free tickets to fly there.

What was once a peaceful, easy-going state is suddenly thrown into turmoil, occupying the media with news of fire-fighting violence and bloodshed on a scale that is practically unheard of in Malaysia.

The crisis in Sabah has brought to surface many long-going issues of national importance; such as Project IC and our border security. And for some, the realisation of how truly diverse Malaysians are.

As we share our hopes and prayers for a quick and peaceful resolution, I would like to share some photographs from my travels to the various parts of remote Sabah, outside of what is now labelled as the “red zone” area.

Puah Sze Ning is a freelance documentary photographer based in Kuala Lumpur. She's a fitness junkie who volunteers for indigenous rights organisations and doesn't really function until she gets a decent cup of coffee. View more of her work at

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