APSN Banner

New unrest in troubled Indonesian province

Agence France Presse - February 7, 1997

Pontianak – New unrest broke out in Indonesia's West Kalimantan province despite a security clampdown, sources said Friday.

Tension eased in the West Kalimantan capital of Pontianak, but reports of clashes between local tribesmen and migrants came from a town in Sambas district to the north. Violence in the province since the start of the year is just the latest in a series of religious and ethnic disturbances to hit Indonesia, the world's most populous Moslem nation, in recent months.

At least 12 people have been killed in riots in various towns since October. West Kalimantan has been hit by mounting unrest between largely Christian ethnic Dayak people in West Kalimantan and Moslem migrants from the East Java island of Madura.

"From last night until early this morning, I have received phone calls telling of clashes in Tebas," said Mohamad Ridai, who heads the Madurese Youth Association in Pontianak.

Ridai told AFP the clashes erupted Thursday with the arrival in the town of the remains of a Dayak man who had been killed by Madurese last weekend.

Reports said at least seven houses in Tebas, about 100 kilometres (62 miles) north of Pontianak, had been burned by angry Dayaks, he said. Dayak elders in northern Pontianak said they have confirmed that two Dayak men have been killed in recent days, including the victim whose return to Tebas sparked the new clashes.

None of the reports could be confirmed with the authorities. Pontianak appeared calm Friday, but many shops were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday, which was celebrated in solemn mood by the ethnic Chinese community of some 150,000 people following the clashes.

On New Year's day, around 5,000 Dayak tribesmen went on a rampage in Sanggau Ledo, some 95 kilometres (60 miles) northeast of Pontianak, attacking migrants from Madura.

Five people died in the riots, sources said, while officials said 21 people were missing. On January 29, masked men attacked a Catholic dormitory in the West Kalimantan capital housing Dayak regugees who had fled violence in their areas, and a nearby boarding house.

In the latter attack, two Dayak women were injured while residents said that another person was killed but the death has not been confirmed. The Indonesian military and civil authorities have said the situation in West Kalimantan was calm and "under control."

Police helicopters were dropping flyers in the region where the latest clashes were reported, the Merdeka daily said Thursday. The leaflets called for calm and promised firm action against those violating the law, the daily said.

Authorities in Pontianak and several other parts of West Kalimantan have tried to impose a 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew. But it has only been strictly enforced in northern Pontianak, residents said. Security forces carry out frequent identification checks on the streets after dark.

In Siantan, north of the provincial capital, the Dayak community has kept up their own patrols. Violence in West Kalimantan prompted Malaysia's Sarawak state to close all border crossing posts with Kalimantan on Sunday. Indonesia's Foreign Minister Ali Alatas has said he hoped the border closure would only be temporary while Malaysia said it would wait before re-opening the border. bur/tw