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Rights groups find police used excessive force in deadly Bangkal palm oil protest

Kompas.com - October 15, 2023

Sabrina Asril, Jakarta – The Solidarity Coalition for Bangkal has announced its initial finding on a series of clashes between residents and police at Bangkal Village in Seruyan, Central Kalimantan, during protests against palm oil company PT Hamparan Masawit Bangun Persada (HMBP).

The solidarity advocacy team, which is made up of 15 civil society organisations, highlighted the excessive deployment of security forces that resulted fatalities and injuries during the clashes.

Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) Coordinator Dimas Bagus Arya Saputra said that there were six initial findings on the incident in Seruyan.

First, the excessive deployment of security forces.

This was based on instruction Number 1377/IX/PAM.3.2./2023 dated September 27 from the Central Kalimantan regional police and signed by the operational bureau head (Karoops).

"At least 440 police officers were assigned to operational control assistance (BKO)", said Saputra during a press conference at the Nusantara Traditional Community Alliance (AMAN) secretariat in Jakarta on Sunday October 15.

Second, the indiscriminate use of firearms and teargas.

"The indiscriminate use of firearms and teargas was very apparent in the incident [involving the] shooting of demonstrators on September 21 and 23, 2023 as well as on October 7, 2023", said Saputra.

Third, the death and injury of protesters.

Saputra said that at the protest action on October 7 there were fatalities and injuries that were allegedly due to live rounds. In addition to this, two residents were injured by rubber bullets on September 23 and there were casualties due to the use of tear gas.

"The fatality as a result of the firing of live rounds was a resident of the Bangkal traditional community named Gijik", he said.

Fourth, indiscriminate arrest and force.

Saputra explained that 20 of the demonstrators were arrested by police, including one who was struck four times by a rifle butt.

"J (50), J (60), S (65), A (55), JO (35), S (41), K (48), M (60), M (still in junior high school third class), S (30), K (27). One resident of Sembuluh Village, four residents of Pondok Damar Village, four residents of Terawan Village", explained Saputra.

Fifth, damage to vehicles belonging to residents.

"We also found evidence of the destruction of several cars and motorcycles belong to community members that were used to mobilise the masses", said Saputra.

Sixth, statements by police that were erroneous and misleading.

Earlier it was reported that a one person was allegedly shot dead and one other seriously injured in a clash between Bangkal residents and police during a demonstration against PT HMBP.

Central Kalimantan regional police public relations officer Senior Commissioner Erlan Munaji confirmed that a clash had occurred between residents and police at the palm oil plantation.

Munaji explained that the clash broke out on the afternoon of Saturday October 7 at around 12.30 pm.

At the time, said Munaji, police were securing a conflict on land belonging to PT HMBP. According to the police version of events, several residents carrying catapults and spears tried to obstruct police.

"So we were forced to arrest them, the other residents however did not accept this and resisted and attacked officers", he told Kompas.com on Saturday.

A clash was unavoidable. As a result one person was allegedly shot dead while another person was seriously injured. They were then rushed to the nearest hospital.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Polisi Diduga Langgar Prosedur, Koalisi Ungkap 6 Temuan Bentrok di Seruyan".]

Source: https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2023/10/15/21351711/polisi-diduga-langgar-prosedur-koalisi-ungkap-6-temuan-bentrok-di-seruya