In Aceh, Guns and Rivalries Create a Lethal Brew
May 07, 2012 04:38 PDT
The Jakarta Globe
May 5, 2012
Guns and Rivalries Create a Lethal Brew in Aceh
The holes on the walls of a small coffee shop in North Aceh have yet
to be patched up. A reminder, locals say, of the string of violence
that has hit the province during the past six months.
Suliadi, a 37-year-old transmigrant worker at a local plantation, died
at the shop after a group of armed men opened fire on New Yearís Day.
Just a day before, another armed group wreaked havoc in areas around
Banda Aceh, killing eight people and seriously wounding six more.
But the terror in Aceh was just beginning. There would be two other
shootings the following month in East Aceh, although no one was hurt
in these incidents.
Aceh has enjoyed an uneasy peace since the armed rebel group Free Aceh
Movement (GAM) disbanded following a peace treaty with the government
in 2005. The treaty ended more than 30 years of fighting that had
killed thousands of people in the resource-rich province.
But convincing former combatants to surrender their arms has proved
difficult, with many continuing to keep the weapons that were in
circulation during the secessionist struggle. Former GAM fighters,
believed to number about 3,000, have been promised Rp 25 million
($2,700) each for giving up their weapons. Fewer than 1,000 have
Throughout last year, police in Aceh discovered at least 43 firearms
along with 7,000 rounds of ammunition and dozens of grenades in a
series of raids. Aceh Police Chief Insp. Gen. Iskandar Hasan predicted
that there were between 800 to 1,000 firearms still in circulation in
After the series of shootings, police intensified their efforts to
find the remaining illicit weapons, but that has resulted in the
discovery of just six more firearms.
Activists and security analysts have tied the recent spate of violence
with the April gubernatorial election, which delivered a landslide
victory to Zaini Abdullah, the former foreign minister of the GAM.
Police arrested eight people believed to be responsible for the
shooting, three of them former GAM combatants and sympathizers of the
Aceh Party, founded by former GAM rebels. Zainiís victory created a
split among Acehís political elite, with many raising accusations of
foul play and intimidation.
Analysts have also seen a recurring pattern. Violence occurred during
the 2009 legislative election and the 2012 gubernatorial election,
creating anxiety over what the 2014 elections have in store.
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