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Old 05-21-2003, 05:25 AM   #1
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Normal Trouble in Indonesia

Hello,

Last Sunday peace-talks ended between the Indonesian government and the rebels on Aceh (or Atjeh). The next day the Indonesian military immediately invaded the region again. According to this report from BBC News, one of the targets are the schools, with both sides claiming that the opponent is burning them down.

Quote:
Fierce fighting erupts in Aceh

Fierce fighting has broken out in Indonesia's Aceh province, in what appear to be the bloodiest clashes since the military launched a major offensive against separatist rebels.
A spokesman for the rebel Free Aceh Movement (Gam) said 13 people, including 10 civilians, had been killed in a military attack near the town of Bireuen.

An Indonesian military spokesman confirmed that an operation was under way in the region, but gave no details.

The government on Monday declared martial law and announced an all-out military offensive against Gam.

More than 150 schools have been burnt down in the province, with both sides blaming each other for the destruction.

Officials say the education of tens of thousands of children is being disrupted.

Media clampdown

More troops were parachuted into the province as Indonesia's military chief, General Endriartono Sutarto, urged his forces to "hunt down and exterminate" the separatists.

"Chase them, destroy Gam," said General Sutarto.

"Don't talk about it, just finish them off."

The Indonesian military governor in Aceh has ordered a clampdown on media reporting in order to deny separatist rebels a platform.

"We will bring a halt to the news from the spokesmen of Gam because they are turning the facts upside down," said Major General Endang Suwarya.

The BBC's Jakarta correspondent Rachel Harvey says that under martial law, the governor is the ultimate authority in Aceh and, in theory at least, has the power to impose whatever restrictions he deems necessary.

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri said on Tuesday that she had ordered the military operation with a "heavy heart" and urged the country to back her.

Gam spokesman Mahmood Malik has vowed the rebels will "fight forever".

Schools targeted

The arson attacks on local schools have spread terror among Acehnese civilians.

"First we heard gunshots so we thought a crossfire was taking place," a young mother in the provincial capital Banda Aceh told Reuters news agency.

Indonesia's flashpoints

"We all cried when we realised the school has been reduced to ashes. Why should anyone attack a school?" she said.

In the eastern district of Bireuen, more than 50 schools have been burned down.

There is no independent confirmation of who carried out the raids.

Our correspondent says local villagers are too scared to say, even if they knew who did it.

There are 28,000 Indonesian soldiers in Aceh, confronting 5,000 Gam fighters.

Correspondents say the rebels' strongest defence is their ability to melt into the heavy forest - and into the local population.

Acehnese resentment against Jakarta's rule has been fuelled by perceived abuses by the Indonesian military, and a feeling that the government is exploiting the region's resources.

The failed peace deal, signed in December, offered Aceh an autonomous government by 2004, which would have been allowed to keep 70% of the revenue generated from the province's rich oil reserves.
Rumours are abound that the Indonesian government arranged to have the peace talks fail so they could invade the region. In a way it sounds a lot like what is happening in other parts of the world (Israel/Palestine).

C ya!

Marty
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Old 05-21-2003, 05:29 AM   #2
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Here's some more background on the conflict, also from the BBC site:

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Aceh: Why it all went wrong

By Kate McGeown
BBC News Online


Last December, it appeared that the long-running conflict in the Indonesian province of Aceh was finally coming to an end.
The government in Jakarta and the separatist rebels from the Free Aceh Movement (Gam) agreed to a peace deal that many greeted as a breakthrough capable of ending 26 years of violence.

But over the last few months, that peace deal has been looking increasingly fragile - and the resumption of military action may have finally sounded its death knell.

Sidney Jones, head of the International Crisis Group in Indonesia, said the deal was doomed from the start.

"Negotiations broke down because the agreement reached in December papered over huge differences between the two sides," she told BBC News Online.

Gam's main goal is Acehnese independence, a request that Jakarta is extremely unlikely to grant - a fact which was never fully addressed in the peace deal.

Under the December agreement, Jakarta said Aceh could have an autonomous government by 2004, which would keep 70% of the revenue generated from the province's rich oil reserves.

In return, the rebels agreed to abandon their claims for complete independence, and hand in their weapons.

While the agreement initially seemed to work - with a noticeable reduction in violence on both sides - problems soon occurred when it came to demilitarisation.

From the beginning of February, the rebels were supposed to give up their weapons, while the Indonesian military withdrew to defensive positions. But neither Jakarta nor Gam fulfilled their side of the bargain.

John Sidel, a lecturer in South East Asian studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, said he was not surprised the deal broke down during the disarmament phase.

"When it came down to the really crucial moves, neither side was willing to give in," Dr Sidel said.

He also said that the timing of Jakarta's military offensive was significant.

The government, he said, was capitalising on American goodwill after its crackdown on terror organisations in the aftermath of 11 September, and its progress in tracking down suspects in connection with last October's Bali bomb attacks.

In the current climate, Jakarta's insistence that a crackdown on Aceh would improve domestic stability was unlikely to gain much resistance from abroad, Dr Sidel said.

Separatist struggles

Analysts have compared the situation in Aceh to that of East Timor, where local separatists also fought a long battle against the Indonesian Government.

East Timor was finally granted independence from Jakarta on 20 May 2002.

Despite the obvious comparisons, Sidney Jones said that Gam had neither the legal basis nor the international support of the Timorese separatists.

Aceh was made part of the newly independent country of Indonesia when the Dutch colonialists left in 1945.

But East Timor was never part of that initial Indonesian archipelago, being independent at the time the Jakarta army invaded in 1975.

Sidney Jones says that one result of the battle for East Timor is that Indonesia is far more reluctant to let other renegade provinces - such as Aceh and West Papua - break away from Jakarta.

"It's a matter of national pride to not let what happened in East Timor happen again," added Lesley McCullough, a Scottish academic imprisoned in Aceh in 2002 by the Indonesian Government.


'Shock therapy'

To the Acehnese people, the government's current military offensive is all too familiar.

There was a similar period of what Mr Sidel termed "shock therapy" in the early 1990s, during which thousands of Indonesian troops poured into the province to crack down on the rebels.

The lesson from that period, Dr Sidel said, was that military action only bred further resentment against the Jakarta Government.

Lesley McCullough also said the current military offensive would not work, saying the army was "fighting a guerrilla war it does not understand", and which it could never completely win.

But Indonesian military chief General Endriartono Sutarto insisted that the army could "suppress the power of Gam to a minimum" within six months.

In the meantime, the Acehnese people are once again facing an uncertain future.

"The people of Aceh are very frightened," said Dr Sidel, "and they have every reason to be."
C ya!

Marty
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Old 05-21-2003, 09:04 AM   #3
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Old 05-21-2003, 01:00 PM   #4
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troubling indeed
I don't like what I've heard about it
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Old 05-22-2003, 09:45 PM   #5
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I've been following this for some time. Spoke with the parents of another missionary kid who work in Indonesia, and it's not a good situation. The fact that the military is moving in and enforce martial law is a real throw-back to the days of the Suharto regime and the way that fear and violence were used to keep the population in line. Of course, the thing that makes me the most upset is that the perfect excuse has been handed to the Indonesian government by the recent actions of the US. They're just taking their lead from the "war on terror" and taking the right to jump into military action. There is no way that after what happened in East Timor (the UN helping, Timor getting independence) that the govt is going to take any chance of losing Aceh.
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Old 05-23-2003, 04:15 AM   #6
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Sula, what are your thoughts on Megawati as leader?

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Old 05-23-2003, 08:44 AM   #7
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Hello,

I have the feeling the Indonesian government has the attitude that, when there's nobody alive anymore in Aceh the problem is solved.

Quote:
Youths 'massacred' in Aceh village

Fresh details have been emerging of alleged executions by Indonesian troops fighting separatist rebels in Aceh.
The BBC's Orlando de Guzman has made a second visit to the site of Wednesday's incident, in the northern village of Mapa Mamplam, and has been told by witnesses that boys, one as young as 12, were among the victims.

Military chiefs have denied the allegations, saying that civilians are never targeted.

Orlando de Guzman's first visit to Mapa Mamplam

Indonesian warships have been shelling rebel positions, as the military continues its offensive against the Free Aceh Movement (Gam), which began on Monday after peace talks broke down.

The villagers at Mapa Mamplam said a group of seven boys and men, aged between 12 and 20, were sleeping in a hut near a prawn farm to guard it - standard practice in rural areas.

A group of Indonesian soldiers entered the hut and dragged the boys out, lining them up on one of the dykes dividing the ponds, they said.

A witness, who had a clear view of the events, told our correspondent that some of the group were then shot one by one at close range.

Three or four others were then told to run, before being shot in the back, the villager said.

Indonesia's flashpoints

In his first visit to the village, our correspondent saw four bodies with bullet wounds to the back of the head.

The military said on Friday it had killed 38 rebels since Monday. Rebels said 12 of their fighters had been killed, along with 53 civilians.

Human rights workers say almost 10,000 people have fled their homes since the fighting started.

Major-General Endang Suwarya, the commander overseeing Indonesia's campaign in the strife-torn province, hass insisted: "Absolutely no civilians were killed.

"We have a list of targets that we want killed or captured. We don't miss or make mistakes."

However, Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda admitted that rebels no longer wear military uniform, and therefore are difficult to distinguish from the local population.

Our correspondent says that whenever reports of such abuses come to light in Aceh, the Gam rebels and Indonesia's authorities tend to blame each other.

However, he adds that in recent days there have been many confirmed cases of Indonesian troops storming into villages, dragging people out of their homes and brutalising them.


'All-out attack'

The BBC's Rachel Harvey says the army is determined to crush the rebels, amid evidence that supplies of food and fuel are running low in many areas.

So far, the offensive has largely taken the form of sporadic skirmishes, largely in the middle of the night, and mostly in the northern districts of Bireun and Pidie.

Indonesian press back operation

The military crackdown in Aceh began after talks with rebel negotiators broke down, ending a five-month-old peace deal that had raised hopes of a permanent resolution to the 26-year conflict.

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri has imposed martial law, giving the military sweeping powers to make arrests, impose curfews and curb travel.

Acehnese resentment against Jakarta's rule has been fuelled by past abuses by the Indonesian military, and a feeling that the government is exploiting the region's resources.

The failed peace deal, signed in December, offered Aceh an autonomous government by 2004, which would have been allowed to keep 70% of the revenue generated from the province's rich oil reserves.
Yesterday, there was a similar story in the Dutch papers. Even Indonesian soldiers acknowledged this, suspecting that the elite troops are doing all this.

C ya!

Marty
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Old 05-23-2003, 11:17 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by foray
Sula, what are your thoughts on Megawati as leader?

foray
foray, the way I see it, any person who was going to be the leader of Indonesia at this point in its history is going to be facing an almost impossible task. how to unite a sprawling, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, smoldering region after years of authoritarian militaristic rule...and with religious extremists breathing down one's neck. I have to say, she's not doing all that well, but it could be worse. Some of the more radical candidates would like to see the country turned into an Islamic state, something that I think would be a tragedy given the fact that Indonesia is not Arab and the people there have always been very moderate and synchristic when it comes to religion. Unfortunately, there are many factions which would like to see the country returned to its former ruling class and I for one would not be at all surprised if Suharto's old military elite cronies are the ones behind this in Aceh as they were in the Malukus, Sulawesi and Timor.
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Old 05-24-2003, 08:43 PM   #9
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I suppose so. I remember when she first came to power and the whole region filled with hope; what a disappointment she has been. Anyway, here's a different p.o.v. on the matter... http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/200305230034480.php

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