Southeast Asia Theater

Indonesians see "slap in face" in corporate pollution settlement

Indonesia's Environment Ministry is evidently caught between ecologists and nationalists demanding a tougher line on foreign corporate polluters and a judiciary that seems beholden to the corporate shadow government. The New York Times noted Feb. 17 that under the terms of the $30 million out-of-court settlement (termed a "goodwill agreement"), the government will drop its $135 suit filed against Newmont Mining of Colorado after villagers near its gold mine at Buyat Bay in North Sulawesi developed tumors, rashes and other illnesses caused by mine waste. From the Jakarta Post, Feb. 18:

Indonesia: corporate-military terror in West Papua revealed

Multiple ethnic struggles in Indonesia made headlines over the New Year's weekend. On Jan. 2, local police announced they have detained at least one man in connection with the New Year's Eve bombing at a Christian market in Palu, Central Sulawesi, in which seven people were killed and 56 wounded. The town is some 300 kilometers west of Poso, where three Christian schoolgirls were decapitated on their way to school Oct. 29 by presumed Islamic militants. The province has seen escalating violence between its roughly equal Christian and Muslim communities. (AKI, Jan. 2)

Tonkin Gulf truth revealed —40 years too late

Well, more than 40 years after the damage is done, the government comes clean on the lies that got the US into the Vietnam War. We guess it must be official now that its in the New York Times. But even the Times (whose own recently-sacked Judith Miller similarly parroted White House malarky) notes the disturbing sense of deja vu here. Its good to see this in print, and its good that Miller got the sack—but is the world going to have to wait 40 years before the full story of Bush's WMD deception is revealed? And by then how many will have been killed in Iraq?

Invisible terror in West Papua

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) is calling for support for a congressional letter to Indonesian President Yudhoyono now circulating in the US House of Representatives. The letter asks Yudhoyono to end ongoing military operations in West Papua and open up the province to international observers.

Peace for Aceh —and West Papua?

The Indonesian government and the rebel Free Aceh Movement (GAM) signed a peace deal in Finland Aug. 15 aimed at ending the local war which has claimed 15,000 lives in over 29 years. "This is the beginning of a new era for Aceh," said former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who mediated the talks. "Much hard work lies ahead." Efforts to end the conflict quickened after the tsunami in December, which devastated much of Aceh. In the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, big screens were set up in the main mosque so that people could witness the signing in Helsinki.

Newmont Mining sued over Indonesia contamination

The Indonesian government has charged a local unit of Denver-based Newmont Mining Corp., the world's largest gold miner, with damaging the environment at its mine near Manado in eastern North Sulawesi province. The government also charged Newmont of Indonesia's president, Richard Ness. "He was aware of what was happening," Robert Ilat, spokesman for the North Sulawesi prosecutor's office, told a district court.

Buddhists flee southern Thailand

Another forgotten war is heating up: the Islamic separatist insurgency in southern Thailand. Thousands of Buddhists are fleeing the region, and teachers seem to be especially targeted for assassination, according to this chilling account from Qatar's Gulf Times, July 6:

Thousands of Buddhists flee Thailand's south
BANGKOK — Thousands of Buddhist teachers and residents are fleeing Thailand’s Muslim south as 19 months of anti-government violence shows no sign of slackening, officials said yesterday.

Sharia law in Aceh

This from the BBC, June 24. We know that the Indonesian regime (which the White House is seeking to reward with renewed military ties) is harshly intolerant of marijuana-smokers as well as ethnic separatists. We were hoping the separatists of Aceh were more progressive. This report appears to indicate that these hopes may be misplaced—yet it notes at the end that the armed Free Aceh Movement (GAM) opposes the sharia measure. Is Jakarta trying to play conservative Muslims against the GAM? Can any of our readers provide more information on the politics of sharia law in Aceh?

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