Mob violence
in West Java spreads
Rioters set fire to shops, banks, churches, schools

Reports by Susan Sim, Indonesia Correspondent

JAKARTA -- The mob violence that left the West Java town of 
Tasikmalaya devasted and at least one person dead on Thursday 
spread to other towns in the province yesterday as military troops 
sealed off the area.

While there was an uneasy calm yesterday morning, a mob burned 
down at least five shops in Ciawi, 14 km away, and crowds gathered 
in Singaparna, 10 km to the west.

No violence occurred in the latter and the situation in Ciawi was 
brought "under control" with the despatch of 100 troops, reports 
citing a military official said.

But by late afternoon, according to government officials in 
Jakarta, the unrest had spread to Indramayu, a coastal town 170 km 
away from the scene of Thursday's riots, and 250 km from Jakarta. 
No other details were available.

Yesterday, residents of Tasikmalaya began counting their losses 
with the discovery of the charred body of an ethnic Chinese woman 
in the rubble of a shop torched by the mob.

Her store was one of scores of shops, homes, factories and 
churches destroyed during several hours of rioting on Thursday by 
thousands of townfolk protesting against the alleged police 
mistreatment of three local Muslim teachers.

While no official casualty list was available yesterday, an army 
officer at the Siliwangi Regional Military Command in Bandung, 116 
km away, told The Straits Times that two people died in the 
unrest. He declined to provide details, saying that his commander 
was in Tasikmalaya, which is 200 km south of Jakarta.

The town itself was reported to be "tense but calm", patrolled by 
up to 3,000 troops from Bandung and Garut.

Reporters at the scene said the town centre was sealed off, and 
flames and smoke were yesterday morning still rising from the 
shops torched. The streets were also littered with the charred 
wrecks of cars.

The town, part of a district which has about 1.9 million 
predominantly Muslim people, was ransacked on Thursday after 
thousands of Muslim students ran amok when police refused to hand 
over officers accused of abusing the teachers.

The Jakarta Post, citing witnesses, said a group of unidentified 
people told the crowd to attack churches and properties belonging 
to people of Chinese descent.

The students stoned the police station and shops, and torched 
several churches before fanning out to outlying areas where they 
set fire to factories and three major department stores.

Unofficial counts estimated that 90 shops, one hotel, almost all 
non-state-owned banks, 63 cars, several police stations and tens 
of houses were burnt or damaged.

A church source said that of the 30-odd churches in Tasikmalaya, 
five were torched while nine others were destroyed, as were two 
Christian schools. Most of the churches were small ones, he added.

Thirty-four people were detained by the military for questioning, 
said reports. Twelve of them -- all high school students -- were 
later released.

Four policemen accused of mistreating the teachers were also 
arresed and would be duly punished, a police spokesman was quoted 
as saying by national news agency Antara.

It added that the district police chief had on Tuesday apologised 
to Muslim preachers in the area for the police brutality, but to 
no effect, as the mass protest showed.


Suharto: Beware threats to inter-faith harmony

JAKARTA -- President Suharto yesterday urged Indonesians to guard 
against the emergence of groups threatening inter-faith harmony.

Religion played a role in many social and political incidents in 
1996, he said in an oblique reference to several instances when 
churches were attacked by mobs.

In October, 4,000 Muslims dissatisfied with a jail sentence sought 
by a prosecutor in the trial of a Muslim heretic in Situbondo, 
East Java, torched more than 20 churches, leaving five people 
dead. In June, 11 Protestant churches were ransacked in Surabaya, 
East Java.

"The appearance of many such incidents highlight our 
responsibility to maintain and strengthen the unity of the 
nation," the President told a Christmas gathering for military and 
government employees. But he added:

"I believe the majority of religious people in this country are 
able to control themselves in facing the diverse religious 
issues." He also praised Indonesia's small Christian community for 
its contribution to national development, describing it as "not 
small" and called on it to step up the pace in future.

The Straits Times. Saturday, December 28, 1996.
~~Forwarded via CAHT-L by e.p.lim. Typos if any are his.~~

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