Indonesian soldiers encroach into Sarawak, kidnap 5 Malaysians: Report

KUALA LUMPUR - Five Malaysians who were harvesting wood in a jungle in Sarawak were allegedly held at gunpoint and kidnapped for ransom recently by men believed to be from the Indonesian army who encroached into Malaysian territory, New Sunday Times newspaper reported.

The incident was confirmed by Malaysia's foreign ministry.

Sarawak police confirmed to Bernama news agency that it has received a report on Dec 12 pertaining the alleged kidnapping.

The five men, aged between 15 and 64, were in Wong Rangkai forest near Kampung Danau Melikin, some 400m from the border in Serian, Sarawak. They were approached by two men in battle fatigues around noon on Dec 11, according to the newspaper, the Sunday edition of New Straits Times newspaper.

The duo in the battle fatigues were armed with 5.56mm Pindad SS-1 assault rifles, the primary weapon of Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI), according to the report.

Malaysia has sent a diplomatic note to Jakarta to condemn the alleged incursion and detention of the Malaysians.

"Wisma Putra sent a protest note to Indonesian Embassy on Friday. The matter is now in the hands of MKN (Malaysia's National Security Council)," a spokesman for Malaysia's foreign ministry, known as Wisma Putra, told The Straits Times on Sunday (Dec 23).

Sarawak police's Commissioner Azman Yusof said police are awaiting the result of an investigation by Sarawak Land and Survey Department to ascertain if  the five men were carrying out lumbering activities on the Malaysian or Indonesian side of the border.

In the incident, the newspaper said the Malaysians were forced into their four-wheel drive vehicle and ordered to drive to a military command post across the Sarawak border in Kalimantan.

The soldiers accused them of stealing wood from the Indonesian side.

During the journey, according to the report, the soldiers roughed up the five Sarawakians and threatened to shoot them if they resisted. The soldiers also allegedly fired off two rounds to show that they meant business.

Three of the Malaysians were allegedly held overnight. Two others were said to have been released about 4pm to inform their families to hand over RM10,000 (S$3,290) and two new chainsaws that same evening.

But the two Malaysians went instead to Malaysia's Balai Ringin Military Camp to report the incident, according to the New Sunday Times report, leading to negotiations to release the three men.

The trio was released the next day by Malaysian soldiers who crossed into Kalimantan.

The newspaper showed a picture of the three Malaysians with three men in Indonesian battle fatigues, with a caption saying the four-wheel drive vehicle was also handed back.