Accessibility links

Mob Attacks Peace Monitors' Office in Aceh - 2003-04-06

In Indonesia's northern province of Aceh, a mob has set fire to an office belonging to international peace monitors from the Henri Dunant Center. The HDC brokered the historic peace deal between the Indonesian government and separatist rebels.

A spokesman for the Henri Dunant Center says the attack on the monitors' office Sunday shows elements in Aceh are clearly trying to undermine the peace process.

Steve Daly said a mob of at least 250 people vandalized and then set fire to the peace monitors' office in the town of Langsa, in southern Aceh. No one was injured and no monitors were in the office at the time of the attack.

The ceasefire monitoring teams, which are called joint security committees, or JSC, are made up of representatives from the Indonesian government, separatist rebels, and international observers.

After word about the attack reached them, Mr. Daly said some monitors found protection at the local police station, where many demonstrators then gathered.

Police say the demonstrators are angry that JSC teams failed to follow up on an abduction carried out by rebels of the Free Aceh Movement.

This is the second violent incident to force the closure of a JSC office. Last month, two JSC staff members were slightly injured when a protest in the town of Takengon turned violent. The JSC office was vandalized, and two cars were set on fire. That office remains closed.

In that case, the police said the demonstrators were angry at perceived inaction on the part of the JSC in investigating kidnappings by the Free Aceh Movement.

An HDC spokesman said the police have so far failed to investigate the violence against the peace monitors in Takengon, despite repeated requests.

The incidents come just a few months into Aceh's peace process. Representatives from the Free Aceh Movement and the Indonesian government signed the ceasefire, outlining the terms for disarmament for both sides, in December.

The plan is seen by many as the best chance Aceh has to end the conflict that first erupted in 1976 when the Free Aceh Movement declared Aceh independent of Indonesia. Observers say the rebel movement has been fueled by the at times brutal behavior of Indonesian troops towards Acehnese civilians.

Despite the start of the disarmament phase nearly two months ago, neither side has handed over any weapons. HDC officials say the two groups are still working out the details.