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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story


Most in Aceh were too frightened to vote

By Dewi Loveard

Indonesia's Elections: History in the Making Decision '99 Only a slow vote can spoil Indonesia's free and triumphant elections

The Parallel View Flashback to the 1955 ballot

'I will be the one. Why not?' Abdurrahman Wahid wants to be president

Democracy Meets Anarchy A political tussle stirs trouble in Central Java

The Election That Wasn't Most in Aceh were too frightened to vote

Money Talked, But How Loudly? Accusations fly that Golkar and others misused funds to woo voters
IT DIDN'T TAKE LONG TO tally the first election results in the Pidie regency of Aceh. The ruling party, Golkar, came out ahead: it took 80 of the 130 or so ballots that were cast. Some victory. Election officials decided to extend voting for five extra days in hopes that more people would turn out. (The rules allow polling to take place up to 30 days after June 7.) That may be wishful thinking. Throughout the troubled province of Aceh, in north Sumatra, the vast majority boycotted the polls. Many did so because the only vote they are really concerned about is a referendum on independence from Indonesia, however unlikely that may be. But just as many stayed home out of fear. Human-rights activists and poll monitors say that residents were threatened with violence if they participated in the national elections.

Terror has been rife in the regencies of Pidie, Lhokseumawe and Langsa, the three areas that stretch along the eastern coast of the province. Armed men walk around the towns freely, and strangers are usually followed because they could belong to one of several paramilitary groups intimidating Acehnese. While most days are relatively calm, tension usually increases as night falls. Schools, police stations and vehicles are regularly set on fire, and shootings have become common.

About a week ago, four people riding in a mini-van fired automatic weapons at a police station in Lhokseumawe for nearly 30 minutes. Though the station was open, nobody inside was killed. Two days before the poll, three buses stopped near Lhokseumawe were set aflame. According to one passenger, the arsonists were angry that the company had rented vehicles to the military for transport into Aceh. On the same night, 14 schools were burned down. A midnight-to 4 a.m.-curfew has been in place in the province for a week. The military denies that the restrictions are on its orders, but local commanders did "suggest" a curfew after an election monitor and two military personnel were ambushed and killed.

More than 10,000 people, most of them migrants from Java, have been evacuated from their farms to places of refuge in the cities. They are living in schools, warehouses and hospitals. Poor sanitation and an irregular supply of food are beginning to take a toll on their health. Some 1,000 have been moved to the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, where conditions are supposed to be better.

Most blame the Free Aceh liberation movement for the recent violence since it seemed aimed at disrupting the voting and antagonizing the military. The army waged a brutal 10-year campaign (that ended in 1998) to crush the separatists. Gen. Wiranto, the armed forces commander, has not hesitated to name Free Aceh leader Hasan Tiro the culprit. Wiranto has warned the movement's members to flee Indonesia or face the wrath of the military.

Free Aceh's information minister, Ismail Sjahput, denies any responsibility for the reign of terror. "Our campaign is in the mountains, not the cities," he says. He admits, though, that the group did attack a military vehicle that was carrying a civilian doctor and a paramedic, both of whom were killed. Their deaths, he says, were an accident. He claims the military is fomenting the violence so that it can justify another crackdown.

Meanwhile, by the afternoon of June 9, the total count in Pidie was up to 360. For now, say officials, Golkar is still in the lead.

This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek home



U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

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