Aerial bombardment of peasants in Sumatran village

Berlin, 23rd December 2008

Press Release

On Thursday, 18th December, hundreds of police and paramilitaries attacked the Sumatran village Suluk Bongkal in Riau Province with tear gas and guns. A helicopter dropped incendiary devices on the village, with eye witnesses alleging that napalm was used. Hundreds of houses immediately went up in flames. Two young children were killed and many people were injured. Most of the villagers have fled into the forest. Others have been arrested. Two days later, a helicopter flew at low height over the tents of homeless villagers and bombarded them with stones.

The news sounded so unbelievable that Watch Indonesia! was initially hesitant to disseminate them, however the information has now been confirmed, except that the type of bombs dropped still has to be verified. The environmental organisation WALHI (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) has identified the attack on poor villagers as the result of struggles over raw materials and land, which are so common in Indonesia. In this case, the conflict was over paper and in particular a pulp and paper plantation by PT Arara Abadi, a subsidiary of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) which, in turn is a subsidiary of the Indonesian company Sinar Mas. PT Arara Abadi/APP used the police and hired paramilitaries in order to evict villagers with pure force. The Indonesian Human Rights Commission has now taken on the case.

Watch Indonesia! protests against the attack on Suluk Bongkal and the extremely brutal violence against the civilian population. We demand an immediate investigation of this new human rights abuse, compensation for the local population and a guarantee of their safety and rights, as well as punishment of those responsible for the violence. We demand that European governments and companies examine their links to companies such as Sinar Mas which are responsible for human rights abuses. Europe’s excessive consumption bears some of the responsibility for the growing use of violence in land conflicts over paper, palm oil, gold and other raw materials. Sumatra is not the only place where people are being violently evicted for mass production of paper.

Contact: Marianne Klute,,

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