Sat, 08 Apr 2000

More suspected thieves killed by residents

JAKARTA (JP): Three more men were mobbed to death by residents at separate incidents on Thursday, bringing the death toll of vigilante victims in Greater Jakarta to 30 this year.

The Jakarta Police, who protect the capital and its surrounding area of Tangerang, Bekasi and Depok, said they had almost given up on controlling the situation.

"We just don't know how else to approach the public. We have repeatedly told them, via the media, that they can only arrest the thieves and then hand them over to the police immediately.

"But they don't listen," the city police spokesman, Lt. Col. Zainuri Lubis, said on Friday.

One third of the vigilante cases have taken place in the capital.

The latest three happened at different places in Tangerang on Thursday. All the victims were allegedly attempting to steal a motorcycle.

Muhammad Sasuin, 31, was mobbed to death by residents of the Bakung village in Cikande after he tried to run off with a Honda Astrea motorcycle belonging to student Supandi, 20, a local police officer said on Friday.

Local residents encircled him and beat him to death.

In the early hours of the day, residents of Muncul subdistrict in Serpong mobbed Acung bin Rombeng, 27, another local, for suspicion of stealing a motorcycle.

Serpong Police chief First Lt. Wiji Hidayat said Acung reportedly borrowed a Honda Astrea Grand motorcycle from his neighbor Chaeruddin, 30, last week. But he disappeared for a week.

He returned home on early Thursday morning, but without the motorcycle.

When Chaeruddin inquired about the whereabouts of the motorcycle, Acung did not answer and turned to leave.

As Chaeruddin pushed him to reveal where the motorcycle was Acung ran away. Chaeruddin then yelled "thief ... thief".

Scores of residents, who were awake and about to perform their subuh (dawn prayer), ran after Acung. They increased in number as the pursuit continued.

Acung was apprehended by them after he stumbled over a tree root.

The residents repeatedly hit Acung with anything available, which led to the victim's death.

"We regretted the mobbing. The residents should have reported the crime to the police instead of taking the law into their hands," officer Wiji said.

None of the residents were arrested by police, but some were questioned, including Chaeruddin.

At about 9:10 p.m. on Thursday, Hermansyah, 26, was burned alive by angry residents of Poris, in the Jagabaru area of Batu Ceper in Tangerang.

Hermansyah was one of three men who witnesses saw running off with a Honda Astrea motorcycle belonging to a local resident.

"The three were trying to run off when the motorcycle went dead. Residents approached the suspicious-looking men. When the three men started to run instead, some of the residents screamed 'Thief! Thief!'

"Hundreds of people ran after the men ... two escaped, but one was burned to death," spokesman Zainuri said.

Residents first beat the suspect severely. While the suspect lay in pain, the residents poured gasoline over him, lit a match and burned him alive.

Residents left the scene after watching the body burn.

"Police had tried to stop them, but to no avail. First Sgt. Jayadi and Second Sgt. Sularto of the Batu Ceper Police were hit with rocks along with the suspects who the residents were trying to stop," he said.

"What these residents have done and will most likely continue to do is a crime," Zainuri said.

Separately, noted psychologist Sartono Mukadis said this type of killing was only occurring in certain areas which had spawned looters and thieves during the May 1998 riots.

"If you were to make a map of where these crimes have been happening, you would find that most of the killings took place in Tangerang, Bogor or Bekasi, the areas that produced looters and thieves in the May 1998 riots," he said.

"They are reenacting the burning and mobbing.

"The murderers are trying to find some way of shedding their guilt. They feel they can compensate for the crimes they did then by killing thieves today," Sartono explained.

But he said the police got an advantage from the killings of suspected thieves.

"The police no longer have to deal with these thieves themselves.

"But what I fear is if the mobbing and killing and burning is used to the advantage of certain parties," Sartono said. (ylt/41/asa)