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On Prisoners of War  

by on Thursday, 4 October 2007No Comment | 1,410 views

Last weeek I read a book which is entitled “ The Last Gentleman of War” which gives accounts on daring actions of German cruiser Emden in World War I combined with gallant and honorable conduct of her captain, Karl Friedrich Max von Müller. What impress me much are not the daring actions of the cruisers but the humane and honorable treatments that were given by Captain Müller and his crew to their prisoners of war (PoW). A question arose in my mind “how Balinese treat their PoW?”


I did a hasty research to find some information on how Balinese treat their PoW, my research was not in vain, I found some information in the public library, some good, some bad, but mostly interesting. It surprised that Balinese treat their PoW especially their fellow Balinese in a cruel way. They sold their Balinese PoW to foreign merchants as slaves (before the slave trade was abolished), served as slaves to winning party or assigned to hard labor. However, the fate of European PoW was much better. Here is an account on Balinese treatment on their European PoW given by Gregor Krause in his book Bali 1912.

“In 1894, A (Dutch-led) military expedition against the island of Lombok was defeated by the Balinese who inhabit its western parts. After stout resistance, part of a company with some European officers was taken prisoner. The prisoners were led from their position, a temple courtyard that had been turned into a fortress, to a palace of the prince, half an hour away. The armed Balinese who filled the streets looked curiously at the prisoners marching by, but no abusive word was heard and no hand was raised against them. People looked in silence and exchanged only words of sympathy for the wounded”.

“When the prisoners reached the great market place in front of the palace, they had to wait until the prince appeared. On his command, the PoW received refreshments, the officers choice fruits and the men white rice and cold water. After six days they were sent to the coast, to rejoin their compatriots and to take ship back to Java”.

As the law of Karma has it, every action is reciprocated, the bad treatment of Balinese to their fellow Balinese PoW was reciprocated through the hand of the European. Once again, Krause captured the event, here is the narration of the event given by Krause in his book.

“In the year 1906, European troops marched against the tiny kingdom of Tabanan in the south of Bali. Convinced of the hopelessness of any resistance and hoping to avoid needless bloodshed, the ruler of the kingdom met the troops with a small band of followers and tried to negotiate with the commander. When this failed, he wanted to return to his palace. Instead, he was taken prisoner and led to Denpasar, where government commissioner who had enjoyed many years of hospitality in Bali was to decide his fate.”

“On his arrival, the prince asked for clemency in being allowed to continue living in Bali. The commissioner decided to banish him to Lombok and locked him with his son who was still child, in a narrow space with high walls and a strong guard. They forgot to give the prisoners food and drink or light for the night. The next morning, they found the old prince had been bled to death from a jagged wound in his neck which he had inflicted himself with a blunt piece of iron previously used to pound betel. His son has poisoned himself with opium, which guards had forgotten to take from them, and lay near him”.

Some materials for this writing were taken from Gregor Krause’s Bali 1912

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