24 Dec 2008

Protesting Indonesian villagers driven out

8:56 pm on 24 December 2008

Amnesty International has called on the Indonesian government to investigate a crackdown on protesting Sumatran villagers that left two children dead.

The people of Suluk Bongkal village in Riau province have been engaged in a land dispute with a pulpwood supply company since Indonesia's forestry ministry awarded the company rights to develop the area in 1996.

According to Amnesty, two children died and nearly 400 people fled into the forest last week when police and other officials fired bullets and teargas in an attempt to clear the village.

A two-year-old girl died after falling down a well in the attack, says Amnesty campaigner Josef Benedict, while a two-month-old baby died from burns. Two other people were injured by gunshots.

Two helicopters reportedly dropped what was thought to be a fire accelerant, burning about 300 homes before bulldozers went in and flattened the area.

A Riau police spokesman confirmed that an incident had occurred but declined to respond to Amnesty's specific allegations, saying an investigation was under way.