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Death toll reaches 17 in Borneo clashes.

JAKARTA, March 23 Kyodo

Further clashes between native Dayaks and migrant Madurese in the city of Kuala Kapuas on Borneo Island have left 17 people dead and dozens of houses destroyed, with hundreds of people fleeing the region, the state-run news agency Antara reported Friday.

The situation remains tense in the city, 900 kilometers northeast of Jakarta, with schools and most shops still closed. Local residents said almost all Madurese have fled either to neighboring province or nearby forests since the clashes broke out earlier this week.

Witnesses said groups of Dayaks were still patrolling several areas within Kuala Kapuas in search of Madurese.

Around 733 migrant refugees, heavily guarded by the military, managed to pass along an intercity road occupied by native Dayaks armed with traditional weapons, Antara said.

The refugees were heading to the nearby city of Banjarmasin, from where they plan to leave Borneo.

On Thursday, one Dayak was seen riding through Kuala Kapuas on a motorcycle parading a freshly severed head, Antara said.

Police and local authorities insist that only four people have been killed so far, all of them Madurese.

Ethnic clashes spread to Kuala Kapuas three days ago from the neighboring regency of Sampit in Central Kalimantan Province, where violence broke out on Feb. 18.

The Sampit violence left almost 500 people dead, mostly Madurese, and forced more than 35,000 migrant Madurese to return to their homeland of Madura Island, just off East Java.

Clashes between Dayaks and the economically better-off Madurese have occurred for many years in Borneo.

A riot in Borneo's West Kalimantan Province in 1997 left hundreds dead, though independent estimates put the death toll in the thousands.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Mar 26, 2001
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