Asia's longest war drags on

Indonesia’s security forces claim that, over the past three months, they have killed around 2,000 independence fighters in Aceh – one of its western provinces, rich in oil and gas. They also claim to have captured thousands of Aceh separatists since May this year, when the Government ended a six-month truce, pulled out of internationally brokered peace talks and arrested GAM (Free Aceh Movement) negotiators.

However, foreign analysts say that so far the military offensive – in which the Government has engaged about 55,000 soldiers, marines and paramilitary police – has barely made a dent in the insurgency. In a rare phone interview from a jungle base, GAM Commander Kafrawi told an Associated Press writer: ‘Only a fifth of the casualties are our fighters, while the rest are civilians.’ Indonesian and international human rights organizations concur that most of the victims in Aceh are innocent villagers caught up in army sweeps through the countryside. While Aceh was formally included in the Federal Republic of Indonesia in 1949, the Acehnese independence movement has been strong since the Dutch invaded in 1873. The Acehnese are now demanding a UN-supervised independence referendum like the one which ended Indonesian rule in East Timor in 1999.

Kumpulan Utusan (Malaysia) and TAPOL For more information, see the TAPOL website:

Indonesia claims to have captured thousands of Aceh separatists since May 2004. In August 73 of them were transferred to a west Javan prison together with this separatist from the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

mag cover This article is from the October 2004 issue of New Internationalist.
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