Villagers on edge after five Sarawakians allegedly held at gunpoint by Indonesian army

The villagers speaking to Malaysian police and army personnel at the worksite where they were allegedly confronted and taken by TNI personnel, in this undated photo.

KUCHING, Dec 23: Five Sarawakians were allegedly held at gunpoint by Indonesian soldiers who had encroached into the Malaysian border last week.

It was believed that the five, aged between 15 and 64, were harvesting wood at the Wong Rangkai forest near Kampung Danau Melikin, some 400m from the Serian-Kalimantan border on Dec 11 when they were accosted by two men in battle fatigues.

The New Straits Times today reported that the two strangers were armed with 5.56mm Pindad SS-1 assault rifles, the standard primary weapon of Tentera Nasional Indonesia (TNI). The five were forced to get into their Toyota Hilux parked nearby and were ordered to drive across the Kalimantan border to the Indonesian command post in Sg Enteli.

The soldiers accused them of stealing wood from the Indonesian side.

Throughout the journey to their command post, the soldiers allegedly roughed up the five Sarawakians and threatened to shoot them if they resisted. At one point, one of the two soldiers fired off two rounds to show that they meant business.

At the base, the Sarawakians were forced to admit to stealing wood on the Indonesian side and were ordered to strip and their heads covered with black hoods.

The worksite where the villagers were cutting wood.

Of the five, three were held overnight by the soldiers, while two, who are brothers, were released at about 4pm with a task. They were allegedly told to inform the families of the hostages to hand over RM10,000 plus two new chainsaws that very night (Dec 11).

They allegedly warned them against informing the Malaysian army detachment at the Balai Ringin Military Camp or other Malaysian authorities. If they did, their friends would be executed.

The duo, however, took a gamble and went straight to the Balai Ringin camp. A line of communication was established with the Indonesians and negotiations for the release of the remaining hostages began. This led to the release of the three men the next day (Dec 12).

A second meeting was set up at 2pm on Dec 14, over on the Malaysian side of the border, 200m from the Indonesian command post in Sg Enteli, to arrange for the return of the hostages’ Toyota Hilux. This time, it was headed by the commander of the 3rd Infantry Brigade, headquartered at the Penrissen Camp in Kuching.

The Indonesians, all armed, were led by a military representative from the Indonesian consulate-general in Kuching.

On Dec 21, Putrajaya sent Jakarta a protest note condemning, in the strongest terms, the alleged incursion and detention of its citizens by the Indonesian security forces, wrote the New Straits Times article.

Indonesian soldiers handing over the Toyota Hilux belonging to one of the victims following the second meeting on Dec 14, 2018.

Meanwhile, DayakDaily today reached out to the police for updates. A police source confirmed the incident, saying the police investigation in this matter has been closed but the Malaysian Royal Army is still investigating the case and is still in discussion with the TNI.

According to a police report, the area near Kampung Danau Melikin, near where the five Sarawakians were apprehended, was very close to the Indonesian border and it was alleged that every so often Indonesian army personnel from a nearby command post would encroach the border and threaten villagers wandering too close by apprehending them and demanding for payment.

“This is causing security concerns among villagers living near the border,” said the police report. — DayakDaily