Shadow of the United States behind Suharto: the bloody Indonesian dictator

In this post we now focus on Southeast Asia instead of Korea or Japan. Indonesia became another victim of Cold War in 1965. In 1965, over fifty thousands of Indonesian communists and Chinese Indonesian were killed by Suharto's regime after his military coup. Suharto's military coup and prosecution were supported by Central Intelligence Agency and other western intelligence agencies. [1]

Figure 1: General and President Suharto on the cover page of Time 

Suharto's military coup successfully overthrew pro-Soviet Sukarno's regime in 1965[2]. Suharto quickly banned communism throughout Indonesia and demonizes communism as a threat to Islam, Catholic Christianity, and Indonesian culture and described himself as a hero protecting Indonesia from communism. Suharto successfully provoked hatred communism phobia of the Islamic and the Catholic group and later on the communism phobia throughout the whole Indonesia archipelago[3]. The hatred eventually developed into a bloody massacre of communist. At least 500 thousands of Indonesian died in the anti-communism horror. Communist women were depicted as demons who assassinated his colleagues and many red girls were raped during the anti-communist purge. 

Suharto proposed a system of new laws and new ideology after his military coup to replace his predecessor Sukarno's communist ideology and policies. Suharto enacted a series of laws and policies called "New Order" to reform Indonesia. The new ideology is called Pancasila [4]. The word Pancasila in Javanese means five philosophies of ancient Indonesian culture: 

Kebangsaan Indonesia: Indonesian Nationalism,

Internasionalisme: Internationalism emphasizing justice and the virtue of humanity,

Musyawarah Mufakat: Deliberative Consensus emphasizing a form of representative democracy in which ethnic dominance is absent and each member of the council possesses equal voting power,

Kesejahteraan Sosial: Social Welfare premised on the theory of the welfare state and emphasizing popular socialism

Ketuhanan yang Maha Esa: A Divinity that is an ultimate unity" (A formulation that can be seen as implying both monotheism or pantheism, thereby allowing space for all of Indonesia's major religions).  

Figure 2: Pancasila, the hegemonic ideology in Indonesia
Pancasila, though promised equal rights for different ethnic groups in Indonesia, eventually became a hegemonic ideology which emphasizes Javanese Nationalism and stabilizes the Suharto's regime. Ethnic diversity became a bad cheque for Chinese Indonesian, East Timorese, and Papua New Guinean. 
During the anti-communist purge, Chinese Indonesians were considered as suspects of communist party members and they were targeted by rioters and Suharto's army. Lots of Chinese Indonesians, Taiwanese Indonesians and HongKongese Indonesians were also purged because of their facial or language characteristics. Prejudice and discrimination against Chinese Indonesians remained after the anti-Communist purge in 1965. Suharto's New Order forced Chinese Indonesians to abort their Chinese names, Chinese traditions and obtain extra proof for their Indonesian citizenship. [5]Discriminatory languages were also used extensively in Suharto's regime. Here are a few examples:
Porsi Cina (Chinese portion) meaning the largest portion of food

Mambu Cina (Smelling of the Chinese) Newly purchased items

Tangisan Cina (Chinese tears) Mourning cry

and the word "cina" is also deragatory, which is an equivalent word as "chink" in English.

Extensive discrimination eventually led the second massacre of Chinese Indonesian in 1998. In 1997, Asian Financial Crisis stroke Indonesia. Economic decline and political dissent with Suharto's dictatorship triggered national riots in Indonesia in May 1998 [6]. Although Chinese Indonesians had nothing to do with Suharto's political dictatorship or failed economic policies, stereotypes of Chinese Indonesians over decades made them scapegoat for Suharto's regime. They were described as "greedy merchants" who were responsible for massive unemployment of Indonesia during Asian Financial Crisis. Riots developed into atrocities on Chinese Indonesians. It was estimated that more than ten thousands of Chinese Indonesians fled Indonesia. Over 1500 Chinese Indonesians were killed and 468 rape incidents happened on Chinese Indonesian Women. Although this time Suharto did not lead the violence on Chinese Indonesians but the sinful and discriminatory legacy of his regime has been deeply rooted in Indonesia.

Figure 2: Riot in Jakarta, May 1998

Suharto further expanded his nationalistic Pancasila to East Timor and West Papua New Guinea. 

Let's first watch a short video talking about genocide happening in West Papua New Guinea

Indonesia's occupation of West Papua New Guinea is a story full of discrimination and blood. Chauvinistic Suharto regime had performed various military operations to suppress OPM (Organasi Papua Merdeka) and solidify the occupation of West Papua New Guinea. Those military operations were diplomatically supported by the United States because of Suharto's kin relationship with U.S. Genocide of West Papua New Guineans is still not well known by the rest of the world. [7]

East Timor was never a part of Indonesia before Suharto's military occupation. In 1975, after the Portuguese Revolution, East Timor gained its independence from Portugal. The independence was followed by a civil war between The Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (pro-Communism party) and Timorese Democratic Union (pro-Capitalism party) and eventually The Revolutionary Front of an Independent East Timor won. Suharto quickly decided to launch a military operation together with the United States and Australia to defeat communism in East Timor and occupied East Timor in 1976. [8]

The occupation of East Timor was resisted by East Timorese and it was estimated that more than 10 thousand deaths were related to Indonesia's suppression during the occupation of East Timor (1975-1999). More than eighty thousand of Timorese died in the associated illness and hunger.

Figure 3: Anti Indonesian Occupation in East Timor

Works Cited
1: Van der Kroef, Justus M. “The 1965 Coup in Indonesia: The CIA's Version.” Asian Affairs, vol. 4, no. 2, 1976, pp. 117–131. 

2: Weatherbee, Donald E. “Interpretations of gestapu, the 1965 Indonesian Coup.” World Affairs, vol. 132, no. 4, 1970, pp. 305–317. 

3:Wardaya, Baskara T. “Diplomacy and Cultural Understanding: Learning from US Policy toward Indonesia under Sukarno.” International Journal, vol. 67, no. 4, 2012, pp. 1051–1061.

4: Morfit, Michael. “Pancasila: The Indonesian State Ideology According to the New Order Government.” Asian Survey, vol. 21, no. 8, 1981, pp. 838–851.

5: Kusno, Abidin. “Pacific Affairs.” Pacific Affairs, vol. 79, no. 4, 2006

6: Park, Jae Bong. “Civic Networks and Building Social Capital in Indonesia: An Innovative Experiment by Chinese Organisations in the Post-Suharto Era.” Journal of International and Area Studies, vol. 17, no. 1, 2010, pp. 75–90

7: GLAZEBROOK, DIANA. Permissive Residents: West Papuan Refugees Living in Papua New Guinea. ANU Press, 2008.

8: Abinales, Patricio N. “Review: In the Shadow of Mount Ramelau: The Impact of the Occupation of East Timor ” The Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 55, no. 3, 1996, pp. 774–776.


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