EXTERNAL AI Index: ASA 28/14/97
UA 407/97 Excessive force / Ill-treatment /
Possible prisoners of conscience 22 December 1997
MALAYSIAEnyang ak Gendung, aged 40 )
Indit ak Uma ) shot and injured
Siba ak Sentu, 36 )
Untok ak Utom )
Rolly ak Sylvester Nyelong )
Sylvester Nyelong ak Mudat, aged 36 )
Johan ak Jau, aged 19 ) detained
Jau, aged 50 )
Tingom ak Rangking, aged 60 )
Fear for the safety of members of the Dayak Iban indigenous community in the
Malaysian state of Sarawak involved in a land dispute has been heightened after
three Iban were shot and seriously injured by police during a protest on 19
December 1997. Several community members subsequently taken into police
custody may be prisoners of conscience.
Officers of the Police Field Force (PFF), armed with M16 rifles, opened fire
on unarmed villagers in Sungai Subukut, Bakong, Miri Division in Sarawak.
Enyang ak Gendung is in a coma in intensive care and it is feared he may not
survive. Indit ak Uma and Siba ak Sentu are also being treated at Miri General
Hospital for gunshot injuries. Several others are reported to have been injured
by police batons, including TR Bangga ak Andap the village headman, and Untok
ak Utom who was admitted to hospital after being struck on the head. He was
later taken into police custody.
The shootings and beatings happened during the course of a peaceful protest
by about 300 members of the indigenous community against the development of
their native customary land by an oil palm plantation company, Empresa Sdn.
Bhd. Local people lodged complaints with the police against the company after
it began clearing their land with bulldozers and damaging crops without any
prior notification or consultation with them. When the police and other
government authorities refused to take any action against the company and
clearance operations continued, the villagers confiscated three of the
company’s bulldozers and began a peaceful protest, calling for negotiations
over the use of their land. On 19 December PFF officers arrived at the scene
and tried to arrest several people without any warrant. A commotion began and
police officers opened fire on the villagers.
Six people, including Untok ak Utom, are reported to have been detained at
Miri Central Police Station in connection with the incident. It is not known
whether they have been charged with any offence.
According to an article published in the Borneo Post on 20 December, one police
officer was injured by a machete during the incident. Large numbers of PFF
officers have since been drafted into the area and there are fears that further
arrests may be imminent.
Amnesty International is concerned about reports of escalating harassment and
arbitrary arrests of members of the indigenous Dayak Iban communities who have
been engaged in peaceful protests at the development of their native customary