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Mobs attack police post, shops, factories

Agence France Presse - January 3, 1999 (abridged)

Jakarta – New unrest has been sparked in several Indonesian towns by rumours of deaths in police custody, environmental pollution and anti-Chinese tensions, reports said Sunday.

Violence was reported in different parts of the far-flung archipelago. One mob set ablaze a police post and a store in Java while an ethnic Chinese-owned shop was ransacked by angry Moslems on the eastern island of Sulawesi.

Villagers in Cilangkap and Cicadas, both in the West Java district of Purwakarta, angered by air pollution from two fibre factories late Saturday attacked the plants, injuring at least one worker and damaging two employees' buses, the Suara Pembaruan evening daily said.

In Purwakarta, thousands of villagers attacked the factories of PT South Pacific Viscose and PT Indho Bharat Rayon after a demand for medical insurance was rejected by the management of both companies. Security forces intervened to prevent further damage, the Suara Pembaruan said.

The private television channel Televisi Pendidikan Indonesia said one policeman was injured as the mob pelted security forces trying to block their way into the plants. Suara Pembaruan said a member of staff was injured as the mob stormed the administration office at one of the plants, damaging equipment.

The mob left several buildings within the factory compounds damaged, one guardian post burned and two company buses wrecked. A workers' cooperative unit at one of the plants was also looted, the television station said. Villagers said the factories were releasing dust and foul-smelling air pollution which was hazardous to residents.

Meanwhile, 84 people were arrested following violence, including looting, that marred New Year's Eve celebrations in three West Java provincial towns, the Sinar Pagi daily said.

Hundreds of youths in Sukabumi, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of here, gathered at the central square and destroyed ornamental flower beds and shops before police and troops stopped them from rampaging through a nearby night market.

In Bandung, capital of West Java province, riot police were called in to stop vandals who smashed the windows of five banks and hurled rocks through shop windows and at passing motorists.

Reports said a local supermarket, six shops and automatic bank teller machines were also looted in the West Java town of Garut.