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Indonesia Launches Massive Attack on Free Aceh Movement - 2003-05-19


Indonesia has launched a massive air, land and sea military operation against separatists in the troubled Aceh province. VOA TV’s Jim Bertel reports the military operation was launched just hours after the breakdown of peace talks.

Hundreds of soldiers parachuted into the provincial capital of Banda Aceh and nearby areas Monday as the Indonesian military mobilized thousands of troops and dozens of warships to the region.

Indonesian president Megawati Sukarnoputri approved the military action after last-ditch peace talks between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh movement collapsed in Tokyo Sunday.

Ms. Megawati declared martial law in the province, saying rebels had rejected Jakarta’s offer of special autonomy in return for disarmament.

In the provincial capital, there was little sign of martial law as children went to school, shops opened and cars and motor bikes jostled for space on the roads. Yet this businessman says even though he’s open, he does not expect to see any customers.

"For me, it is bad news for business, not because I am afraid to open my business, but because there will be no customers"

Martial law will last 6 months and can be extended. It gives security forces increased powers to impose curfews, perform searches and prevent people from leaving or entering the province.

More than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed during decades of conflict in the province.