Blood, Timber, and the State in West Kalimantan, Indonesia
Asia Pacific Viewpoint, Vol. 49, No. 1, pp. 35-47, 2008
36 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2008
West Kalimantan (West Borneo) has a history of violent communal conflict. It also has extensive forests that have been looted for decades. The argument will be that these two are linked, but not by the grievances of the forest dwellers. Except in its first few days, the two main episodes of 1997 and 1999 were not driven mainly by grievances among marginal groups. Rather, explanations based on the 'resource curse' carry more weight. These focus attention on the contested nature of the state, rather than on rebellious activities of marginal groups. When state institutions were thrown into disarray by the sudden resignation of President Suharto in 1998, Dayak militants already close to state power rewrote the rules of local politics by demonstratively 'cleansing' certain areas of an unpopular immigrant minority. This theatrical maneouvre impressed political rivals sufficiently to allow Dayaks to gain control over several timber-rich districts, which had a thriving black economy. Malays later imitated these techniques to stem the tide.
Keywords: resource curse, environmental scarcity, communal conflict, violence, internal armed conflict, resource mobilisation, grievances, political ecology, forests, state institutions
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