TITLE=INDONESIA - VIOLENCE (L-ONLY)
INTRO: Indonesia has been hit by fresh violence
between Muslims and Christians, with the death toll
from the latest clashes as high as 43. Ron Corben
reports from our Southeast Asia Bureau in Bangkok, the
bloodshed occurred in Maluku province, a hotbed of
clashes over the past year.
TEXT: The outbreak of violence occurred Wednesday and
comes despite recent calls by President Abdurrahman
Wahid for greater tolerance in the eastern Indonesian
province of Maluku.
Military reports have put the death toll from the
latest clashes between Muslim and Christian youths at
just over 20.
But Indonesia's Kompas Daily newspaper says 43 were
killed and 39 injured in the clashes on Buru Island,
after the violence was sparked by a brawl between
youths near an industrial estate in
North Buru sub-district.
Several churches were reported attacked and set on
fire with more than 170 homes and other buildings said
to have been torched amid the bloodshed. Hundreds of
villagers, in fear of their lives, fled to the local
police headquarters for protection.
Buru is some 200 kilometers west of the provincial
capital Ambon, itself 24-hundred kilometers east of
Buru was once a site of a penal colony set up in the
1960s to house thousands of prisoners accused of being
communists by the government of former President
An Army colonel, Iwa Budiman, contacted by news
agencies, said the fighting broke out in several
villages late Wednesday after an argument between
workers at a local plywood factory.
Indonesia's Antara news agency, quoting local
residents, said the situation remained tense even as
dozens of military and police reinforcements were
heading to the island.
Colonel Iwa said the situation has been brought under
control after the overnight clashes and
attacks on buildings.
Violence between Christians and Muslims has led to
more than 13-hundred deaths over the past year.
Officials estimate more than 700 people have been
killed in the inter-religious violence in Maluku
The disturbance came despite a recent visit to the
province by President Wahid, during which he called
for reconciliation and religious
President Wahid has plans to travel on December 31st to
Irian Jaya, where groups have been calling for
independence from Jakarta. But the conflicts in Maluku
- also known as the Molaccas - appear
to have been driven by religious antagonism.
President Wahid had said previous efforts to solve the
problems in Maluku had been mishandled. But he
acknowledged it is difficult to determine who should
now be involved in a dialogue.
Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri has
responsibility for finding a solution in the troubled
province, but has so far said
little to indicate a way forward to solve the
About 90 percent of Indonesia's 210 million people are
Muslims, making it the world's most populous Islamic
nation. But in Maluku
the Christian and Muslim communities are about equal
in size. For generations they have lived in relative
harmony and reports say there are few clear reasons to
explain the recent violence.
23-Dec-1999 04:48 AM EDT (23-Dec-1999 0948 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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