Indonesia: May 15, 2004


The government will end martial law in Aceh on May 19th, a year after it was imposed. On May 19, 2003, the armed forces moved into Aceh and went after the separatist rebels. While 2,000 separatist rebels were killed, and another 3,000 captured or surrendered, the armed separatists are still holding out. One benefit of the martial law was a crackdown on the corruption of local government officials. Achenese had complained  for years that money meant for running the local government was being stolen by government officials, especially the ones appointed by the central government. This was a major reason for the growth of the separatist movement. Aceh produces lots of natural gas and oil, and the locals don't see any benefits. If Aceh were a separate country (like it was centuries ago), they would have all the gas and oil wealth for themselves. The government believes that the year of military operations has convinced, or terrorized, enough Acehenese to support the government to marginalize the separatist movement. This remains to be seen. But if the separatists still have enough support to keep the violence going, the army and police can play the same terror game and let the people decide.




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