Saturday, January 15, 2005

Indonesian army 'extorting money' in Aceh.

Indonesian Military Accused of Extorting Money from Aid Workers

January 14, 2005

Foreign volunteers have accused Indonesian troops of extracting money from them when they enter Aceh province.

Adian, chairman of the Independent Volunteers' Commission, said on14/1/05 that complaints had been raised by volunteers from several countries, including Australia and Japan, state news agency Antara reported.

The volunteers were reportedly asked by troops to pay Rp1 million ($110) each for security support and communications equipment.

The Indonesian military (TNI) makes much of its money from running businesses such as 'protection'. Indonesia has for years been rated as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Indonesia Corruption Watch, a respected non-government organization, is monitoring the aid to Aceh. Luky Djani, who is in charge of the project, was quoted by The New York Times as saying food or other supplies would probably be siphoned off by soldiers or corrupt officials.

He said opportunities for greater theft would arise in the rehabilitation and reconstruction phase, which the government has said will cost about $3 billion. He expressed concern that government departments might exaggerate their needs for aid to get more money.

Presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng confirmed that not all foreigners would be kicked out of Aceh by the end of March. "Not all of the foreigners must leave Aceh by March 26 because there will still be certain needs.

Refugees have expressed hope the foreign troops will remain as long as they are needed. "If they leave, we will starve," refugee Syarwan was quoted as saying by AP. "We can't expect any help from the Indonesian government. We trust the foreign military," said another refugee, Muhammad Yusuf.

About 3,000 people have been killed as a result of the recent military operation against separatists. Rights groups claim many of the dead were innocent civilians and accuse the military of continuing the conflict in order to protect its business interests in Aceh.

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