Subject: Open Letter from Aceh Forum to Sec'y of State Rice

11 February 2005


Dear Secretary Rice:

We, The Forum of Aceh People, an Acehnese civil society group who work for peace and democracy in Aceh, have read that you intend to re open the IMET military training program for Indonesia and build again a structural relationship with the Indonesian military. We urge you not to do this.

Reopening the IMET program would be a betrayal by the US government of the people of Indonesia who are still struggling for democracy and of the Acehnese who want to liberate themselves from military oppression and who are still recovering from the Tsunami disaster.

Such a move would be in contrast to the voice of many pro democracy activists and would be reminiscent of the old counterproductive US policy of showing support for the TNI (Indonesian armed forces) even as it is killing civilians.

The Indonesia military has long been the enemy of democracy in Indonesia. Unfortunately they are still the same. The biggest source of violence in Indonesia in recent decades has not been terrorist groups but state-sponsored violence led by the government's own military, the TNI. An essential feature of the military apparatus has been the territorial command system, which creates structures shadowing the civilian government down to the sub-district level, and even has non-commissioned officers posted at the village level. Members of the armed forces played a role in creating some of the radical Islamist groups. Human rights defenders were targeted, including the recent assassination of Munir the most prominent human rights figure in Indonesia.

For Acehnese, like for the East Timorese, the Indonesian military has been involved in great human rights abuses toward the local people, but unlike the East Timor killing, which is a thing of the past, this military oppression is still happening at the moment in Aceh. Before the horrific disaster rocked Aceh and killed over 250 thousand people, the military role in Aceh had killed at least 15,000 Acehnese. Aceh is still under military control under the civil emergency status imposed by the Indonesian government on Aceh before the Tsunami. Thousands of members of the military who had been in East Timor have been sent to Aceh and are now applying the same tactics, kidnapping, killing and and staging forced disappearances of many civilians in Aceh.

It would be wrong for Secretary Rice to assume that giving further US support to the Indonesian military will help the situation. Restoring the IMET would have a very dangerous effect: it would greatly strengthen the political position of the military in Indonesia. It would give the Indonesia military more confidence that the US government is supporting them and is on their side despite their continuing and unpunished crimes in Aceh and other places.

The lessons over the years show that not until the Indonesian military is weakened politically can we find a peaceful political settlement for the problem in Aceh and many other problems in Indonesia.

The Forum of Aceh People would like to express our strong objection to this contemplated move by Secretary Rice. We urge the US government to continue the embargo against the Indonesian military and to play a positive role to support peace and democracy in Aceh and Indonesia.

Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

MISDAWAN ERSA General Secretary the Forum of Aceh People Contact: 62-815-33749262 60-164867456 Email:

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