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The Twilight Zone: A Border of Malaysia-Indonesia

by on January 4, 2010

Departed at 09.00 PM and arrived at 07.00 AM by the next day.

The border is an experience that allured my curiosity. It is not again and again only about the infamous trafficking route which operates there.



In the bus that I hitched, a woman willingly left Pontianak to meet her beloved son who opened a coffee shop in Entikong border – which is far worse than the form of its doppelgänger, Tebedu. A Malaysian imigresen officer fined a male migrant worker from Java, for the first time, of RM 50, for a reason that he could not understand. A group of tourist went back home to Kuching, the capital of Sarawak state, and being treated – more – special compared to other passengers who have Indonesian nationality. And, one more short story, an old little friend of mine, Haji Abdurrahman, who has done the pilgrim to Mecca for three times and now was going back to Kuala Belait, Brunei Darussalam, after previously dated women throughout Borneo to find a new wife.

The border will always reminds me of Dave, a brilliant coffee addict who won a fellowship for border studies of Kalimantan and Borneo. “From Pontianak, just take the bus straight to Entikong and Tebedu immigration post until you finally arrived in Kuching”, Dave explained me about the border that is transportable by any wheeled vehicle. When I went down from the bus, the first scene that I saw in Entikong-Indonesia immigration post was a mobile street vendor who sells meatball exactly at the border (sometimes in and out of) – contrast to its neighbor, Tebedu-Malaysia, which is divided only around of 20 meters long, with complete mini immigration offices and merchandise shops.

The border is a twilight zone. It is neither black or white nor sacral or profane.

The Kalimantan community, who could not afford to own a passport or, furthermore, travel to Borneo, needs a courier service to send their message or package safe and sound to friends and relatives in Borneo. Long before the imaginary line between Kalimantan and Borneo was laid by the British and Netherlands colonial, those were a united neighborhoods with close kinship.

It is a pesky matter. As a result, the bus space dedicated for passengers was filled by goods – as well as money in a white envelope which was given to an immigration officer to ease the custom steps.

“The immigration post is only an optical illusion. The fencing length is only 100 meters long to the left and right sides of it”, Dave elaborated the politic of the border and smuggling. In front of the scanning machine, an officer fluently sung an Indonesian song although he surely was a Malaysian. A day before my departure, a man had tried to find a border transportation service who was willing to surreptitiously tuck his body and his belonging to Malaysia.

There will be a transformation within the next 10 or 20 years that might not be predicted before. The inefficient KTP (Indonesian ID Card) should be replaced and combined into a passport as a national identification means and, soon after that, an economic zone with a common currency between the South-East Asian countries. CAFTA, a larger region of free trade zone which was recently opened, is a real economic premonition that show this phenomena.

At that time, the border is everything everywhere and anything anywhere. Indonesia and Malaysia will never be compared in an aging dichotomy of black or white and sacral or profane.

From → Indonesia, Malaysia

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