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The BBC's Richard Galpin reports from Borneo
"The killings have been continuing"
 real 28k

Friday, 23 February, 2001, 17:29 GMT
Beheading: A Dayak ritual
Dayaks ready for attack in violence in 1999
Dayaks - united against the Madurese
The re-emergence of beheading in the latest ethnic clashes in the Indonesian province of Kalimantan has focussed attention on the customs of the region's Dayak tribes.

Dayak is the general term for the non-Muslim indigenous tribes of the island of Borneo, divided up between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

The ritual practice of beheading in spiritual ceremonies has largely died out among the Dayaks.

Madurese carrying knives
Madurese settlers are also armed
Beheading your enemy was seen, within the complex polytheist and animist beliefs of the Dayaks, as the way of killing off for good the spirit of the person you had killed.

The heads would be put on display at traditional burial rites called tiwah, where the bones of relatives were taken from the earth and cleaned before being put in burial vaults known as sampung.

But in recent years pigs' or cows' heads have come to be used instead.

Traditional way of life

Widescale logging and development on Borneo have had a major impact on the lifestyle of the Dayaks.

Many still live in the forests in traditional long houses built on stilts where 20 or more families live in one building.

Body of decapitated Madurese
Beheading kills off the soul, according to native belief
Their subsistence agriculture is centred on rice, supplemented by hunting and fishing.

The old-age weapons of spears, blow pipes and machetes have been much in evidence in the latest unrest.

But many Dayaks have given up the forests, and their tribal dress and customs, to move to Borneo's cities and towns.

Mutual hatred

In Indonesia, they have joined a social structure in which they have been forced to live side-by-side with tens of thousands of migrants from other parts of the country's far flung archipelago as well as other ethnic groups such as the Malays.

Most of the migrants were relocated during the 1970s - though many moved earlier - as President Suharto sought to ease severe overcrowding, particularly on the islands of Madura and Java.

The BBC's Jonathan Head, who has frequently visited the area, says the current conflict is not about religion - many Dayaks have converted to Christianity - or about race. The Muslim Malays get on well with the Dayaks and the Confucian Chinese.

But they all agree about one thing - their dislike of the settlers from Madura. They frequently complain to the central government of what they perceive to be the aggressive and criminal behaviour of the Madurese.

In 1999, about 3,000 people died when the Dayaks supported local Malays in fighting against the Madurese.

"The Madurese have an extremely strong sense of solidarity. They are very tight. But as settlers, they should really be fitting in with the locals and showing respect," Father Yusuf , a Roman Catholic priest in the area told AFP.

For now, the declared aim of many Dayaks in Kalimantan is not to make the Madurese better neighbours, but to get rid of them once and for all.

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