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January 13, 2005

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On the other hand, you have to be impressed by this

India and Thailand have not asked for any freeze on their international debt repayments due to the tsunami catastrophe.

This was announced here Wednesday by the Paris Club, a wealthy group of 19 creditor nations, reports Xinhua.

I also have to wonder if Chas find this response to Muslim extremists on the part of Indonesian government disturbing? For the record, I do.

Hmm the situation in Aceh is that it is essentially going through an uprising, so it's not surprising that Indonesia doesn't want foreign troops in that province.

Indonesia's new president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is a former general in a country that has been under martial law for much of its recent history.

Hmm talk about trying to paint a democratically elected leader in a unfavourable light.

This may be too long even after I edited it, but it is the prepared statement of Sydney Jones from a congressional hearing on Recent developments in SEAsia I was under the impression that Aceh was a breeding ground for Muslim extremism, but if this statement is true, I was really misinformed.

I would like to address the democratization process in Indonesia with specific attention both to the counterterrorism and to the war in Aceh and the sad fact is that the democratization process in Indonesia is stalled....Despite the fact that the police have done an excellent job investigating the Bali bombings and investigating other links to Jemaah Islamiyah, it is the Indonesian army that is rapidly gaining political influence without any progress whatsoever toward accountability, fiscal transparency or genuine civilian control mechanisms and nowhere is this more evident than in the counterinsurgency operations that the military began last May 19 in Aceh.

The issue there is not whether the Indonesian government has the right to use military force against an armed guerrilla movement, it clearly does, and efforts to find a non-violent solution that the U.S. was heavily engaged in failed. It is true that GAM represents major security threats.

The concerns are rather how military forces being used in Aceh...

I think it is indicative that today the police announced a death toll from May 19 to June 5 of 69 civilians and 52 GAM members. That is a much different figure than the army gives, but if that is the ratio that we are going to continue to see, there is grave cause for concern.

This Committee should be concerned about the state of political reform in Indonesia, but it should also understand that United States leverage with the Indonesian government has never been lower nor anti-American sentiment higher. The Indonesian military very consciously modeled its operations in Aceh on United States operations in Iraq, hoping that its own equivalent of ''shock and awe'' would intimidate Acehnese into ending support for GAM, and believing that the key lesson to be drawn from Iraq was that massive force equals quick victory, but this is a very different kind of war.

Statements of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta expressing disappointment with the resort to force in Aceh have been treated not just with anger but with contempt by Indonesian politicians, who believe they are on far stronger grounds sending troops into Aceh than the United States was in sending troops to Iraq. Exhortations to respect human rights in Aceh ring hollow coming from U.S. officials, when the Indonesian media has given front page coverage repeatedly to the lack of due process for Guantanamo detainees.

The sad truth of the matter is that the United States in Indonesia is no longer seen as a champion of human rights and democracy. With that as an introduction, let me speak briefly of the war in Aceh and the war on terrorism. In Aceh, both sides are responsible for the breakdown of the December 9 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, which was an agreement that was less a peace agreement than a framework for discussing peace and which papered over more issues than it resolved.
-snip-
This brings us to another key concern about these operations, which is not only that the government is increasingly trying to control all information coming out of Aceh, it is also reviving a kind of political labeling not seen for years. Not only is the military emergency aimed at eradicating GAM fighters, it is also aimed at removing what it calls GAM sympathizers who appear to include anyone from journalists to human rights defenders who criticize the army's version of events. Human rights defenders, I should underscore, are in particular danger now. We have seen several summoned for interrogation and several outright arrested.
The problem is that outside of Aceh and the small but vocal activist community in Jakarta and other major cities, this is a military operation that is very popular in Indonesia as a whole and is playing very well with the Indonesian public. President Megawati's fortunes have taken a sudden leap upward. She is playing to deeply held nationalist feelings by portraying her actions in Aceh as being designed to protect the territorial integrity of Indonesia.
One final word on Aceh: The Indonesian government is waging a campaign aimed at the international community to have GAM declared a terrorist organization. The United States and other countries have resisted Indonesian arguments on this before and should continue to do so, but the Indonesian government in addition to alleging GAM involvement in a series of bombings in Jakarta and the North Sumatran city of Medan is now trying to allege that GAM is linked to Jemaah Islamiyah, the terrorist organization. This is simply not true. There is additional material in the written testimony.
As noted, Indonesia has made important strides toward dealing with home-grown terrorism, but the progress has been made by the police, not the army. Some officers within the Indonesian military are resentful at the amount of attention and resources lavished on the police in the aftermath of the Bali bombings and have argued that only the military and not the police, can best protect Indonesia from the terrorist threat.
But the police, even in this highly nationalist atmosphere, have shown themselves to be open to international assistance and have used that assistance to good effect, particularly with the Australian Federal police.
Unlike Aceh, where the military has gone after GAM in this broad category of ''GAM sympathizers'' with equal vigor, the police have been very careful in their pursuit of Jemaah Islamiyah to restrict arrests to the people against whom there are reasonable grounds for suspecting involvement in terrorist activity and a lot of the concerns that the terrorists regulation, the new antiterrorism legislation would be abused in the pursuit of terrorist linked Jemaah Islamiyah has proven groundless.
There is no witch hunt and no broader crackdown on the radical Muslim community as some had feared. The Jemaah Islamiyah network though has been damaged by these arrests. It has not been destroyed. The problem is that it is becoming increasingly evident that one of the strongest allies of terrorists in Indonesia has been the country's pervasive corruption, where officials can be paid to turn a blind eye to a shipment of detonators or M–16's, and where identity cards and passports can be made and purchased with great ease.

Again, far too long, but it gives some reasons why Indonesia is doing this.

Factory,

Hmm talk about trying to paint a democratically elected leader in a unfavourable light.

Happens in our country every day.

I agree, Charles. Supply aid, and don't worry about the gratitude. I've been involved in feed-the-hungry efforts here, and if you go into that sort of endeavor expecting that people will be grateful, you're practically begging for an unpleasant surprise.

Charitability isn't a trade, though; it's offering a helping hand without expectation of anything in return.

I wonder if Indonesia's attitude was caused by Bush's "PR disaster"... Heh.

Stan, Stan, Stan...and Charles,

Why do you assume it's ingratitude driving this request that foreigners not expect to stay too long in a sovereign country experiencing internal conflicts and susceptible to outside trouble makers infiltrating and exacerbating the situation?

I see nothing in the press that suggests Indonesia is motivated by ingratitude...how do folks even come to that conclusion? Could they perhaps not be giving the aid as selflessly as they want others to think they are?

I suspect it is not ingratitude, I suspect it is a desire to keep certain unsavory practices out of anyone's watchful eye.

Considering that Indonesia currently ranks 122 out of 133 countries in terms of corruption (meaning, 11th most corrupt), I think there's a reasonable possibility that there may be more here than meets the eye.

Why do you assume it's ingratitude driving this request...

I didn't assume that and I disagreed with the attitude taken by the NY Daily News. The phrase I used was "short-sighted xenophobery".

Edward,

I see nothing in the press that suggests Indonesia is motivated by ingratitude...

But would you say it's bad PR?

I think there's a reasonable possibility that there may be more here than meets the eye.

There is, but I doubt it's corruption. LJ's article above is on the nose: this has a whole lot more to do with the Acehnese civil war (or separatist movement, depending on your particular view) than it does graft. [Think East Timor without the particular hostility Suharto showed over there.] About the only good thing I can hope to come of this tsunami is to have a really bright light shined upon this squalid little secret.

Incidentally, my dad's a SE Asian expert (Philippines rather than Indonesia) and he's convinced the casualties will be much higher still. Cross your fingers and hope he's wrong.

You're probably right, Anarch.

Indonesian politics has always been this murky. By tossing out the foreigners, they can use the tsunami to cover up various atrocities. The death toll will periodically shoot up regardless of whether foreigners are in country or not. But whether the dead are direct victims of the tsunami, wiped out separatists or people who died while the Indon army tried to starve out the separatist movement won't be easily discernible since so much of Sumatra is inaccessible and no foreigners will be around to see what's going into the death toll.

As for Myanmar, I bet you we'll probably only get a ballpark estimate of the number dead there in more than ten years.

As for Myanmar, I bet you we'll probably only get a ballpark estimate of the number dead there in more than ten years.

You're optimistic. ;) The bulk of the dead will be migrant laborers working the fisheries south of Yangon and the Arrakhine fishermen down the southeast coast. None of them being Bama, I doubt whether the government will even record those casualty statistics, let alone report them; I equally doubt whether they'll let anyone try.

Anarch, does your dad have a web presence? Just curious ...

Anarch, does your dad have a web presence? Just curious ...

No, but he does have a USENET one on soc.culture.filipino. He also *engage pimp mode* has a new book out. [Editor as well as contributor.] Haven't read it myself yet (it's just been released, will be formally introduced at AHA later this year) but I've seen some of the drafts and it's likely to become the new standard "textbook" for SE Asian students in the future.

So please, buy a copy! You'll learn something, make my dad feel good and, between royalties and taxation, every book you buy will contribute almost a penny to my inheritance!

Not everything is about US politics.

My wife, the-Indonesia-expert-who-has-not-written-a-book (and could beat up Anarch's dad. It's on!) is quite sure that it's because the reigning government wants to take 100% of the credit for any aid, in order to prevent the rebels from getting a PR coup by taking credit themselves.

That book does look interesting -- I'll try to get my local library to buy a copy.

Let me know if your dad starts a blog. I'm not brave enough for SCF (or usenet, in general).

LibJap: I have not really dug into this, but in our media there is some discussion about the value of debtrelief for those countries. Not just because there are no garanties that the money will be deployed to help the victims, but also because there might be some unwanted side effects economically. It might hinder their possibilities to borrow money in the future (like being labelled 'bad creditor'), there are quite often additional restrictions that influence their monetary (and thus political) souvereignety, it might have impact on the exchange course of their currenties, etc.

I was suprised because I assumed it would always be a good thing, debt relief, but appearantly it is not as simple as that.

About the Indonesian attitude; yep, I agree that charity is not about gratitude. I do believe that the money/rebuilding is a political tool that will be used harshly by the current government. I don't really know what to do about that, except to promote giving aid via local organisations if you can.

morning dutchmarbel
Good point, and I've just heard that Indonesia has refused/said they don't really want debt relief. Does anyone know about the group that originally suggested it?

Morbid curiousity:

If the recent tsunami is still only the 5th or 6th most deadly natural disaster, what made the top five?

The Tianjin earthquake of 1976 is probably the worst in the last century. Although official estimates were around a quarter of a million deaths, outside sources estimated at least twice that many. Going back further, over three-quarters of a million were killed in the Shensi province in a sixteenth century quake.

A cyclone hit Bangladesh in 1970, killing about three hundred thousand.

In July 1950, floods killed about two million in China. In 1938-1939, floods killed another million. In 1931, floods killed three million along the Yangtze. In 1887, nearly a million died when the Yellow River burst its banks.

In 1201, an earthquake killed over a million in Egypt and Syria.

Some of the flooding death tolls can probably be tossed out because they're from multiple floods. All of these are awful, though.

You could probably figure out the answer from this page, provided you accept the veracity of wikipedia. It at least provides a jumping off point for discussion.

Floods and earthquakes in China would take 4 of the top 5, unless one considers disease and famine
to be natural disasters.

The Tianjin earthquake of 1976 is probably the worst in the last century. Although official estimates were around a quarter of a million deaths, outside sources estimated at least twice that many.

I asked this in a previous thread: does anyone know any reliable sources about that earthquake? Every almanac and disaster list has it, but I can't seem to find any definitive accounts (and what I've found is contradictory).

BTW, I'm not talking Wiki entries; they're incredibly useful if you trust the source material, but my point is that I'm not sure I even believe the existence, let alone the credibility, of the source material. Can anyone allay my doubts in that regard?

My wife, the-Indonesia-expert-who-has-not-written-a-book (and could beat up Anarch's dad. It's on!)

Bring it!

...so I want to see my dad beat up by a girl. Big deal. Filial loyalty ain't what it used to be.

I asked this in a previous thread: does anyone know any reliable sources about that earthquake? Every almanac and disaster list has it, but I can't seem to find any definitive accounts (and what I've found is contradictory).

Wiki is just a starting point (as is every other encyclopedia).

There's a brief summary here, there's a human interest story here, and if you are interested in the details, CalTech has a few hundred megs of PDFs going into as much detail as you would like that can be accessed from here.

I would have to call the latter reference a "definitive account".

Nifty. Ta, felixrayman.

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