Indonesia finally acts to quell the murderous Dyak gangs

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The Independent Online

A massacre was needed to galvanise the authorities into action. After 10 days and at least 469 murders, security forces - armed with orders to shoot on sight - finally took steps yesterday to end the reign of terror by Dyak tribesmen in Indonesian Borneo.

A massacre was needed to galvanise the authorities into action. After 10 days and at least 469 murders, security forces - armed with orders to shoot on sight - finally took steps yesterday to end the reign of terror by Dyak tribesmen in Indonesian Borneo.

According to unconfirmed reports, police shot dead five Dyaks caught looting shops and businesses abandoned by fleeing Madurese settlers in the river port of Sampit and in the regional capital, Palangkaraya. "We are now taking tougher action against rioters and other troublemakers," said the regional deputy police chief, Colonel Muhamad Jatmiko.

The security forces in Central Kalimantan province have been criticised for failing to intervene while the indigenous Dyaks hunted down migrants from the island of Madura.

The order to shoot rioters and looters on sight was issued after 118 refugees, including 20 children, were hacked to death and beheaded when their convoy was ambushed by 60 Dyaks on Monday.

The plight of up to 20,000 Madurese living under plastic sheeting in squalid refugee camps in Sampit is causing grave concern. There is only one doctor left in the town; food and medical supplies are scarce and health officials fear an epidemic of disease.

The refugees are crammed into three camps, located outside the local government office and the district parliament building and in the grounds of the police station. Some supplies - rice, noodles, sardines, fruit, medicine and water - have been provided by the Indonesian Red Cross and the provincial government.

Qomaruddin Sukhami, district health director in Sampit, appealed for more aid. "We lack everything," he said. "We have hardly any food, water or medicine. We still need antibiotics and anaesthetics. We have no disinfectant, no sheets, no sleeping materials."

He said some people had already contracted typhoid. "If it is not dealt with properly, there will be a massive outbreak," he said. The refugees, who fled their homes to escape the Dyaks, are under military guard awaiting evacuation to the island of Java. About 15,000 Madurese have already been transported to safety. The camps are swelling daily and another 13,000 people are said to be on their way, emerging from jungle hide-outs and remote areas.

Hasnawati, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said: "Sanitation in the refugee camps is terrible and diarrhoea is spreading among the people, especially children." One refugee, Car Noto, said: "Our children will die if we do not soon get more food."

Monday's massacre took place in Parenggean, a town on the road between Sampit and Palangkaraya. The victims, who were herded on to a football field, had been hiding in the jungle and left after the government promised safe passage. But their police escort fled when the Dyaks swooped. Their bodies were dumped in a mass grave one mile outside town.

The province was relatively quiet yesterday as the National Police Chief, General Suroyo Bimantoro, toured the area. Antara, the official news agency, quoted him as saying that the shoot-on-sight order was is-sued "to prevent more brutality".

The Madurese were resettled in Kalimantan, the latest troublespot in a country racked by ethnic violence, as part of an official programme to relieve pressure on overcrowded areas. The Dyaks, who have been burning and looting the settlers' homes, resent their dominance of the economy and complain of discrimination in education and job opportunities.

Yesterday, police started to disarm the Dyaks, confiscating hundreds of machetes, spears, swords and axes. But with few Madurese left in the population centres, the tribesmen's campaign to cleanse central Kalimantan of migrants has been a resounding success.

Elsewhere in Indonesia, 13 unidentified bodies were found in western Aceh province. In an unrelated incident, a separatist rebel was killed in a clash with government troops in Aceh, said Colonel Kusbini Imbar, an army spokesman. Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the country, police fired warning shots in the easternmost province of Irian Jaya to disperse proindependence protesters.

President Abdurrahman Wahid, who is on a Middle East tour, has been criticised for failing to cut short his trip in the light of renewed violence.

Indonesia's second-largest Muslim group said yesterday it backed Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri to lead the country as pressure mounted on the President to step down. He was censured by parliament last month in relation to two financial scandals in which he has denied any wrongdoing.

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