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Eight die in latest clashes in Sampit JAKARTA - A new bout of ethnic violence erupted on Wednesday in East Kotawaringin regency, Central Kalimantan, with reports that another eight people have been killed. Latest reports coming out of the small town of Sampit, about 214 kilometers west of the provincial capital Palangka Raya, bely police reports that the situation had calmed and was under control since the violence initially exploded on Sunday between migrant Madurese settlers and the local Dayak tribe.
Antara reported that following bloody clashes bodies were seen lying on the streets of the town. The exact number of dead remains unclear, with the latest count being at least eight. Their identities remain unknown. At least 25 are believed to have been killed since Sunday. The resumption of violence seems to have been sparked by a clash in Kuala Kuayam, some 170 kilometers from Sampit, late on Tuesday night.
About 30 houses were burned down during the night raid in Kuala Kuayam, however there were no reports of casualties as most of the residents in the area had already fled. The town of Kuala Pembuang in Seruyan Hilir district, some 200 kilometers south of Sampit, also nearly fell prey to mob violence as residents became agitated by the sudden influx of refugees from Sampit. However community and religious leaders quickly stepped in to calm the situation before an outbreak could erupt.
Kalimantan has seen several recurrences of ethnic violence in the past few years. The most destructive was in 1997 when widespread riots hit Sambas regency in West Kalimantan leaving hundreds dead. In December an intercommunal clash erupted in Kereng Pangi, some 116 kilometers from Sampit, leaving one dead. Police in Jakarta on Tuesday claimed that they had captured one of the two "masterminds" of Sunday's Sampit riot whom they identified as local officials. Police said their motive was to regain their former jobs by inciting an ethnic riot.
On Wednesday additional police reinforcements arrived. Two companies of the Police Mobile Brigade arrived from Jakarta. One was immediately deployed to Sampit while the other was stationed in Palangka Raya. Earlier another company from South Kalimantan had already been deployed to Sampit.

Threat

In Palangka Raya the situation was also tense as thousands of Dayaks surrounded the police station to demand the release of 39 people who had been under police custody since Sunday's riot. Police eventually yielded to their demands and released the 39 after reaching an "agreement" with local leaders who called themselves the Central Kalimantan Region and Dayak Community Consultation League.
Many of those who marched from the local council building to the police station in Palangka Raya were believed to be Dayaks who had left Sampit. Central Kalimantan deputy chief Snr. Comms. M. Djatmiko maintained however that the 39 were actually not detained or even arrested but were being kept by police for their own safety. "You should know that we struggled hard to free these 39 people who at the time were helpless and surrounded by an opposing ethnic group," Djatmiko claimed.
"So we didn't detain them, we secured (their safety)." The head of the league's presidium, M. Usop, urged police to "wisely" resolve the conflict by approaching both ethnic groups. However in a rather veiled threat he suggested that other ethnic migrant groups in Central Kalimantan should heed local traditions or leave.
"Generally speaking the Dayak community in Central Kalimantan are open to anyone from whichever ethnic group. However if the migrants cannot adjust to local values...then it is better that they voluntarily leave," Usop said as quoted by Antara.



Posted in Violence @ 22 February 2001 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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