November 29, 2007 / 8:46 AM / 11 years ago

Indonesians picket Malaysia embassy in dance row

JAKARTA (Reuters) - About 1,000 Indonesians dressed in colorful traditional costumes staged a protest outside the Malaysian embassy on Thursday accusing Kuala Lumpur of promoting an Indonesian dance form as its own.

A Reog Ponorogo dancer performs during a protest outside Malaysia's embassy in Jakarta November 29, 2007. Hundreds of Indonesian Reog Ponorogo dancers held a colourful protest outside the Malaysian embassy as a new dispute erupted between the two neighbours over cultural heritage. REUTERS/Beawiharta

The dispute over the mask dance comes shortly after a folk song used in Malaysia’s “Truly Asia” tourism campaign struck a discordant note among many Indonesians who believe the tune belongs to their country.

The protesters on Thursday said Malaysia was promoting a Javanese mask dance, known as Reog Ponorogo, as its traditional art in its tourism campaign.

Malaysia’s Culture and Arts and Heritage Ministry is using a traditional Malay dance called Barongan in its tourism advertisements, which is similar to the Indonesian dance featuring men wearing enormous tiger heads and peacock feather masks, accompanied by acrobats.

The rally outside the embassy in Jakarta looked more like a carnival than a protest, with participants dressed in traditional costumes performing the Reog dance.

“Malaysia thief!” read posters carried by the protesters.

Malaysian ambassador Zainal Abidin Zain told the protestors that “Malaysia never claimed that Barongan originated from our country”.

But some Indonesians have launched an anti-Malaysia campaign, producing T-shirts emblazoned with the word Malingsia (Thief of Asia) in a parody of Malaysia’s tourism campaign logo.

Indonesia and Malaysia share cultural and religious ties and most people speak Malay and practice Islam, but there has been deep resentment over alleged poor treatment of Indonesian laborers and domestic workers in the neighboring country.

Last month Indonesian lodged a diplomatic protest after members of the Malaysian security force briefly detained a diplomat’s wife, mistaking her for an illegal immigrant, and forcibly broke into a student’s home.

Reporting by Reuters Television, writing by Ahmad Pathoni, Editing by Sugita Katyal and Sanjeev Miglani

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