Southeast Asia Theater
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Even as the US moves to restore military ties with Indonesia, harsh repression continues in areas of the archipelago where indigenous peoples are fighting for sovereignty. This from Survival International, June 15:
INDONESIA: Fifteen years in prison for flying a flag
Two Papuan activists, Filep Karma and Yusuk Pakage, have been sentenced to 15 and 10 years in prison respectively for raising the Papuan flag on 'Papuan independence day', December 1st, 2004. For this ‘crime' they were charged with 'treason against the state'.
Burma's military continues to kill, rape and conscript impoverished ethnic Karen villagers as it drives thousands from their homes in its campaign against insurgents, Human Rights Watch said in a new statement this month. The New York-based group urged the junta to allow humanitarian agencies unfettered access to villagers who have been forced to flee by troops pursuing rebels through the jungles of eastern Karen State, which borders Thailand.
More attacks are reported in Thailand as the country braces for the first anniversary of the April 28, 2004 massacre of 32 Islamic militants by security forces at Krue Se mosque in the restive south of the country. An all-too-typical dialectic of state-versus-insurgent terror is at play here. The massacre came just weeks after the still-unexplained disappearance of Somchai Neelapaichit, a human rights worker who had been reporting on abuses in the region. Local Muslims are also outraged over the death of 85 peaceful prostesters in custody last October—most suffocated to death after their arrest at the village of Tak Bai. Security has been beefed up as the Krue Se anniversary nears. Over the past three days, bomb and grenade attacks on Hat Yai airport, a police station and hotel have left two dead and scores injured. Ten days earlier, an army commander, a Buddhist abbot and his police escort were injured in bomb blasts in Yala province. Four Buddhist monks were killed in the region last year, and attacks on local Buddhists continue. (UK Guardian, April 5)