It is believed the dispute followed an argument between a Rohingya and a Burmese about the violent repression of Muslims in Burma.
Improvised weapons were created from smashed-up beds and brooms as the Rohingya, outnumbering the Burmese, killed eight of the small number of Burmese fishermen in the camp at Medan, in Sumatra.
Immigration centre official Rida Agustian told Australian Associated Press that the entrance to the block where the detainees were being held was sealed off to stop officers from intervening.
The deadly attack was launched in the early hours of Friday.
Agustian said 15 people, believed to Rohingya, were injured during the violence at the centre, where 106 of the boatpeople are being held.
Kyawkyaw, 25, who gave only one name and is one of a handful of Burmese Buddhists being held at the centre, said he heard the attack unfolding and was '''very scared.'''
Hundreds of Rohingya in Burma's Rakhine state and Muslims in other parts of Burma have been killed in race-hate violence since June, with thousands of other Rohingya taking to the sea to escape.
Many Rohingya Muslims arriving by boat in Indonesia face long stints in detention awaiting UN assessment for refugee status.
Burma, also known as Myanmar, views its population of roughly 800,000 Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and denies them citizenship.