GENERAL CONDITION

BATAM ISLAND BINTAN ISLAND ANAMBAS ARCHIPELAGO NATUNA ARCHIPELAGO KARIMUN ISLAND

 

THE HISTORY OF

BATAM ISLAND BINTAN ISLAND

 

INTERESTING PLACES

BATAM ISLAND BINTAN ISLAND

 

 

History

From Sriwijaya era until the 16th century, Riau was a natural part of greater Malay kingdoms or sultanates, in the heart of what is often called the 'Malay World', which stretches from eastern Sumatra to Borneo. The Malay-related Orang Laut tribes inhabited the islands and formed the backbone of most Malay kingdoms from Sriwijaya to the Sultanate of Johor for the control of trade routes going through the straits. After the fall of Melaka in 1511, Riau islands became the center of political power of the mighty Sultanate of Johor or Johor - Riau, based on Bintan island, and were for long considered the center of Malay culture.

But the history changed the fate of Riau as a political, cultural or economic center when European powers struggled to control the regional trade routes and took advantage of political weaknesses within the sultanate. Singapore Island, that had been for centuries part of the same greater Malay kingdoms and sultanates, and under direct control of Sultan of Johor, came under British control. The creation of a European-controlled territory in Johor-Riau heart natural boundaries broke the sultanate into two parts, destroying the cultural and political unity that had existed for centuries. The Anglo-Dutch treaty of 1824 consolidated this separation, with the British controlling all territories north of the Singapore Strait and Dutch controlling territories from Riau to Java.

After the European powers withdrew from the region, the new independent governments had to reorganize and find balance after inheriting 400 years of colonial boundaries. Before finding their current status, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Borneo territories struggled and even came into military conflict against each other, and Riau islands once again found themselves in the middle of regional struggle. But the once strong cultural unity of the region with Riau in the heart of it never returned, and the line drawn by the British in 1819 remained, this time marking the divide between three new countries as of 1965: Singapore, the Malaysian federation in the north, and Indonesia in the south. It is these new countries, however, which recreated unity in Riau world for the first time after 150 years with the creation of the Sijori Growth Triangle.

But while bringing back some economical wealth to Riau, the Sijori Growth Triangle somewhat further broke the cultural unity within the islands. With Batam island receiving most of the industrial investments and dramatically developing into a regional industrial center, it attracted hundred of thousands of non-Malay Indonesian migrants, changing forever the demographic balance in the archipelago.

Today the name of Riau merely refers to this administrative region of Indonesia, a free trade zone heavily supported by Indonesian, Singaporean and international investments.


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