The bloody attacks by indigenous Dayaks on Madurese migrants in the river town of Sampit, Central Kalimantan, have claimed hundreds of lives, mostly Madurese. Dayak mobs have hunted down and killed Madurese, including women, children and the elderly. They also have attacked and burned houses and businesses belonging to Madurese.
The violence has forced tens of thousands of Madurese to flee their homes, where they have lived for decades, to squalid refugee centers in police stations, military barracks and government offices. Thousands of refugees have been taken by naval vessels back to Madura island, East Java, but many more are still sheltering in the refugee centers.
Security forces have failed to contain the violence, which has spread to other villages, subdistricts and districts in Central Kalimantan, eventually reaching the provincial capital of Palangka Raya. The following is a chronology of the violence, which began at the Pelalang Madurese settlement area in Sampit on Feb. 18, 2001.
Sunday, Feb. 18, 2001
Communal conflicts erupted in Sampit, the capital of East Kotawaringin regency, Central Kalimantan, in the wee hours and dragged on for the rest of the day, leaving at least eight people dead and several in critical condition. Several residential buildings were set on fire.
The conflict in Sampit erupted after a mob attacked the Pelalangan migrant settlement area at about 00:30 a.m. leaving five people dead. Various sharp weapons and traditional mandau swords were found on the scene in Pelalangan.
Monday, Feb. 19
Police are searching for two local officials believed to be the mastermind of Sunday's ethnic riot in Sampit. National Police Chief Gen. Surojo Bimantoro said that the two officials are suspected of paying six men a total of Rp 20 million (US$2,083) to provoke the riot in Sampit.
The situation in Sampit was still tense, with government offices and shops closed. To anticipate further riots, East Kotawaringin regent Wahyudi K. Anwar ordered government offices and schools to suspend their activities. The death toll had reached 16 people by Monday. Police also said nine houses, belonging to Madurese, were burned while seven others were damaged by Dayak mobs.
The number of people fleeing to the Central Kalimantan capital of Palangka Raya increased to at least 500, mostly Madurese migrant settlers.
Tuesday, Feb. 20
Police arrested a local government official, described as one of the two masterminds of the ethnic riot in Sampit. Gen. Surojo Bimantoro said the suspect was an official at the local office of the Ministry of Forestry. Tensions remain high with the death toll reaching 17 as new bodies are found. At least three houses belonging to Madurese migrant settlers in Parit village, some 78 kilometers from Sampit, were burned by Dayak mobs.
A clash also hit Kuala Kuayam, some 170 kilometers from Sampit, late 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. Sweeps of migrants were also taking place forcing thousands to flee the area. Using dozens of trucks and buses, the migrants sought shelter in Palangka Raya. Many are staying at Central Kalimantan's governor's office and the provincial police headquarters.
Wednesday, Feb. 21
A new bout of ethnic violence erupted in Sampit, with reports that another eight people have been killed. At least 25 have been killed since Sunday. The resumption of violence seems to have been sparked by a clash in Kuala Kuayam late on Tuesday night.
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.
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.
Thursday, Feb. 22
The situation in Sampit itself remains tense despite the increased presence of security forces, with sporadic outbreaks of violence occurring and houses still being torched. A naval ship is steaming towards Sampit to evacuate thousands of refugees fleeing ethnic violence. The Navy's Eastern Fleet Command sent a landing ship, ironically named KRI Teluk Sampit-515, to Sampit to transport thousands of refugees.
Central Kalimantan Police deputy chief Sr. Comr. M. Djatmiko said 57 people had died in clashes since Sunday. However, a Sampit resident who helped in clean-up operations in the town said the number of dead was closer to 100, with many bodies still on the streets. A delegation of Dayak community leaders and Central Kalimantan leaders, led by M. Usop, arrived in Jakarta on Thursday afternoon and met with National Police chief Gen. Surojo Bimantoro.
During the meeting in Jakarta, the delegation presented several demands aimed at helping to calm the situation. Among the demands was the release of Dayaks being detained in connection with the current violence.
Friday, Feb. 23
Clashes continued in Sampit, with the death toll from the ethnic violence rising to over 100. Sampit Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Petrus Hardono said the latest death toll stood at 91, however, he added that this figure could go much higher "since dozens of bodies have still not been removed from the streets". But hospital officials have put the death toll at 134.
As of Friday no less than 80 people were being detained by police on charges of arson and vandalism, while 38 were being held on suspicion of murder Military and police reinforcements continue to be deployed in the regency, while thousands of Madurese refugees prepare to leave the area for East Java aboard Navy ships.
The Navy decided on Friday to send a second ship to the area. The KRI Teku Ende-517 was deployed from Surabaya, East Java, and will join the KRI Teluk Sampit-515 in evacuating refugees.
Saturday, Feb. 24
It was a mad scramble as thousands of refugees trying to escape the riot which has swept Sampit on Saturday rushed to board a navy ship taking them away from ethnic violence which has claimed over 210 lives. But to the dismay of some 20,000 refugees who had gathered, only one ship, KRI Teluk Sampit, was docked and ready to be boarded at Samuda, some 40-kilometers south of Sampit. The ship had a capacity of less than 2,000.
The refugees, mostly Madurese migrants, must now await the arrival of the KRI Teluk Ende which has also been dispatched from Surabaya, East Java, or any other ship that the government might send to take them back to Java or Madura Island. A PT Pelni passenger ship, KM Tilung Kabilah is also expected to arrive on Sunday.
Sunday, Feb. 25
Communal clashes in Sampit spread to the capital of Palangkaraya. Groups of men armed with traditional mandau swords and wearing red headbands - said to be Dayaks - ransacked and looted houses in several parts of Palangkaraya before setting them on fire.
The renewed violence came amid a visit by top security officials, led by Coordinating Minister for Social, Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to Sampit on Sunday afternoon. He was accompanied by Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Adm. Widodo A.S., Minister of Health and Social Welfare Achmad Sujudi and the military intelligence chief Vice Marshall Ian Santoso Perdanakusumah.
The violence had left some 270 people dead. Unofficial estimates, however, say that the death toll could reach up to 400 as decomposing bodies have yet to be removed from the jungle and other remote sites.
Monday, Feb. 26
118 dead bodies were found in separate spots in the Sampit area on Monday, while fresh troops and aid for the prolonged communal conflicts arrived by air.
All of the corpses were dumped and untransported at the front yard of the Parenggean district head's office located on the main road connecting Sampit and Palangkaraya.
Authorities speculated that all the dead bodies were of Madurese men, who had sought ways to leave Sampit. The finding of the dead bodies made the conflict areas more tense. Transportation from Sampit to Palangkaraya - four hours by car - was practically halted. No public transport vehicles, including taxis, had the courage to operate.
Meanwhile, fourteen tons of food, medicines and blankets arrived aboard a military Hercules plane for thousands of victims of the Dayak-Madura ethnic violence that by official count has left at least 300 dead over the last week. Two Hercules military transport planes dropped off 650 Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) crack troops at the city's airport, to be deployed in Palangkaraya and the coastal city of Pangkalan Bun, 440 kilometers west of Sampit.
Two more military battalions have been deployed to Sampit to assist existing police and military troops there.
Tuesday, Feb. 27
The bloody ethnic attacks perpetrated by the indigenous Dayaks on Madurese migrants in Sampit, which has claimed hundreds of lives, mostly Madurese, entered its tenth day on Tuesday. But there have been no signs of abatement in the mayhem. Some 20,000 Madurese trapped in the district of Samuda, some 40 kilometers north of Sampit, were unable to leave the area.
There were still 118 corpses dumped in the front yard of the Parenggean district head's office that had yet to be buried. They were all covered in shrouds, but a mass grave was only due to be excavated on Tuesday. In Palangkaraya, the remains of seven Madurese were found on Tuesday evening, while the torching of Madurese houses continued unchecked.
Groups of people were seen looting the abandoned homes of Madurese families while the security forces stood idly by. Waves of Madurese refugees were continuing to flee Palangkaraya for the South Kalimantan capital of Banjarmasin.
Madurese families living in the regency of Kapuas were also fleeing in the direction of Banjarmasin following rumors that the ethnic cleansing operation conducted by the Dayaks would reach Kapuas, which is 70 kilometers away from Banjarmasin. Violence also erupted at the Madusa seaport, some 40 kilometers south of Sampit, on Tuesday afternoon when Police Mobile Brigade troopers and Army soldiers traded shots.
No fatalities were reported, but seven Brimob troopers, four soldiers and one Dayak man were injured in the daylight gunfight. Ten vehicles, including seven Army trucks, were damaged in the violence.