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Military holds 86 amid new ethnic rioting'

South China Morning Post - February 21, 1997

Joe Leahy and Agencies in Jakarta – The military has arrested 86 people during a resurgence of ethnic conflict which has left hundreds dead and forced more than 1,000 people to abandon their homes in West Kalimantan.

Indigenous Dayak tribesmen went on a rampage on Tuesday, torching 107 houses in Sungai Kunyit, 60 kilometres northwest of the provincial capital of Pontianak, the Merdeka newspaper said yesterday.

The violence forced more than 1,000 people, most of them migrants from Madura Island, to flee.

The military arrested 86 people and confiscated 21 muskets and 96 other weapons. The military was reportedly questioning 12 detainees and police were holding the rest.

The latest outbreak of violence follows warnings by human rights officials that further peace efforts were needed, even though warring parties signed a reconciliation agreement on Tuesday in Pontianak.

The military yesterday attributed the latest ructions to poor communication, saying news of the pact had yet to reach outlying districts.

"There are constraints on communication such as transportation, language and distances," Lieutenant-Colonel Imur Pandji, of Pontianak's new military command forward post, said.

"Some of the tribal chiefs in remote areas have not heard of the signing of the peace pact."

The Pontianak command post is one of the first to see action since President Suharto ordered the armed forces to establish special surveillance posts in the regions.

Sources say the peace accord ceremony has had little impact.

"Dayak elders remain steadfast that they will not tolerate Madurese presence in the area any longer, and that there will be no peace until all Madurese have left the region," a source said.

Miriam Budiardjo, the deputy chief of the National Commission on Human Rights, which helped broker the agreement, said: "We hoped the signing of the accord would bring a more lasting peace, but I realise that it's a long-term problem and won't go away just like that."