Monday, January 28, 2008

Indonesia's General Suharto and the mass murders

Suharto died on Sunday. Two years ago John Pilger wrote a preliminary obituary for the former Indonesian dictator (via Anthony Loenstein):
Forty years ago this month, Major General Suharto began a seizure of power in Indonesia by unleashing a wave of killings that the CIA described as "the worst mass murders of the second half of the 20th century". Much of this episode was never reported and remains secret. None of the reports of recent terror attacks against tourists in Bali mentioned the fact that near the major hotels were the mass graves of some of an estimated 80,000 people killed by mobs orchestrated by Suharto and backed by the American and British governments.
A story in Time Magazine dated Dec. 17, 1966 reported (via Wikipedia):
Communists, red sympathisers and their families are being massacred by the thousands. Backlands army units are reported to have executed thousands of communists after interrogation in remote jails. Armed with wide-bladed knives called parangs, Moslem bands crept at night into the homes of communists, killing entire families and burying their bodies in shallow graves.

The murder campaign became so brazen in parts of rural East Java, that Moslem bands placed the heads of victims on poles and paraded them through villages. The killings have been on such a scale that the disposal of the corpses has created a serious sanitation problem in East Java and Northern Sumatra where the humid air bears the reek of decaying flesh. Travellers from those areas tell of small rivers and streams that have been literally clogged with bodies.

"Whereas much of the anti-PKI pogroms in the rest of the country were carried out by Islamic political organizations in the name of jihad, the killings in Bali were done in the name of Hinduism" observes an author of the Wikipedia biography of Suharto.

The Year of Living Dangerously is a novel by Christopher Koch, which was made into a film in 1982, directed by Peter Weir. It tells the story of some Western journalists caught up in these events. It ranks with "The Killing Fields" as one of the greatest films about Southeast Asia.
Photo: By Jotman. Shows Bali where "possibly more than 100,000 Balinese were killed although the exact numbers are unknown to date and the events remain legally undisclosed" ('Bali', in Robert Cribb, ed., The Indonesian killings of 1965-1966: studies from Java and Bali (Clayton, Vic.: Monash University Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, Monash Papers on Southeast Asia no 21, 1990), pp. 241-248 via Wikipedia).

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