09/30/2010, 00.00
INDONESIA

Clashes between rival ethnic groups in Borneo kill five and force 32,000 from their homes

by Mathias Hariyadi
Violence between indigenous Dayak Tidung and ethnic Bugis began last Monday following a fight that left an ethnic Dayak man dead. The government sends two special police battalions to stop the clashes.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – More than 32,000 people, mostly ethnic Dayak and Bugis, have fled their homes, seeking refuge in police stations and army camps. In the city of Tarakan (East Borneo), clashes continue in fact pitting indigenous Dayak Tidung against Bugis who are originally from South Sulawesi. The violence broke out on Monday when Bugis killed a Dayak man. Both groups are Muslim. So far, five people have died and dozens have been injured.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono yesterday called on law enforcement agencies to restore law and order and prevent a repeat of the violence between indigenous Dayak and Madurese that left hundreds of people dead in Sampit (Kalimantan) in 2001.

The government has sent two special police battalions to restore order in the city where groups from both ethnic groups have caused panic in the population, sacking stores and homes.

South Sulawesi Governor Syahrul Yasin Limpo urged ethnic Bugis, who migrated to the province, not to retaliate even if they are provoked. He reassured them that over the next few days he would send a delegation to negotiate a truce with Dayak representatives.

With more than 300 distinct ethnic groups, Indonesia has seen frequent clashes between rival ethnic groups fighting for religious, cultural or territorial reasons.

The provinces of Poso (Central Sulawesi) and Ambon (Malaka) saw Christian and Muslim groups fight each other over the past ten years, with more than 9,000 deaths.

In Sampit Province (western Borneo) has been traumatised by warfare between indigenous Dayak and ethnic Malayu and Madurese. Since 1998, this conflict has killed some 500 people and displaced more than 100,000.

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