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Indonesia threatens to shoot rioters on sight

Police warned on Monday they would shoot on sight rioters who posed a danger to others as sporadic looting and protests against price rises persisted.

"Why not (shoot them)? That is right, shoot on sight," police spokesman Soetrisno T.S. was quoted by the official Antara news agency as telling reporters in the East Java capital of Surabaya.Five people have died in the recent food riots in Indonesia triggered by rising prices of basic commodities, with ethnic Chinese shop owners bearing the brunt of popular anger.

Soetrisno, commenting on reports that crime and riots could pick up with the lay-off of hundreds of thousands of workers, said police had not found any link between crime and unemployment.

"But then again, the calm may only be on the surface. There may be underground movements which we should be aware of," he said.

The comments came as Indonesia's new military commander, who also controls the 185,000-strong police force, played down the impact of recent riots on national stability.

General Wiranto, the former army chief-of-staff, was speaking to reporters at the palace after being installed in his new post by President Suharto.

"National stability is going ahead well. There have only been a few places where stability and the restoration of the economy have been disturbed. That's natural. Every nation has its problems," Wiranto said.

"There are rumors and speculation, but let us say the rumors are garbage because they are causing restlessness in the community," Wiranto said.

Residents in various districts on Java said on Monday public transport was being disrupted as bus drivers afraid their vehicles would be attacked by rioters stayed off the roads.

Inter-city buses in West Java were stoned and some had their windshields cracked on Sunday as sporadic riots broke out in the towns of Kadipaten and Sumedang outside Bandung, the provincial capital, 120 km (74 miles) southeast of Jakarta.

Residents said the normally bustling road between Bandung and Cirebon, a nearby port town, appeared quiet on Monday as some further looting was reported in Kadipaten.

Antara quoted police as saying they arrested three people for inciting others to stone shops in Pangalengan on the outskirts of Bandung, wrecking seven shops and slightly damaging dozens of others after 200 people ran amok.