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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

HARSH LESSONS


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Madness in Medan: A dispatch from Indonesia's third city

FOR THE PAST THREE MONTHS, student demonstrations have been almost a daily occurrence somewhere in the country. At first, they were confined to campuses and consisted of gentle calls for democracy and lower prices. But as the reactions by authorities became harsher, the protests spilled onto the streets - and the demands stiffened, primarily: Suharto must go. Clashes between students and riot police escalated, causing injuries, deaths outside Jakarta and, finally on May 12, the first fatalities in the capital. Some key moments:

FEBRUARY

Jakarta's University of Indonesia and Jogjakarta's Gadjah Mada University are scenes of marches demanding more political freedoms and human rights. Some students hold hunger strikes.

MARCH

Suharto is named to his seventh consecutive presidential term. The major campuses throughout Java erupt in protest, with faculty participating in some cases. Soon the demos spread beyond Java. Hunger strikes continue, and the first student injuries occur. Military chief Gen. Wiranto and Education Minister Wiranto Arismunandar warn the students not to extend the protests off-campus. They are not heeded. Just days later, students take to the streets in Solo, central Java, and in two Sumatran cities. Gen. Wiranto offers to talk to the students, but they refuse, saying they want to see Suharto instead. They get the cold shoulder. Some student activists are arrested, others just go missing.

APRIL

The clashes between students and police grow violent. Students throw rocks, molotov cocktails and set motorbikes alight. In Jogjakarta, a police van is smashed. Officers are hurt. Tear gas and water cannons become fixtures on and around campuses. On April 11, Gen. Wiranto meets some youth leaders and reiterates his warning to stay off the streets. A week later, another meeting takes place, this time with cabinet ministers, including Suharto daughter Tutut, in attendance. It leads nowhere, and Suharto tells the military to get tough. Riot police start to fire rubber bullets. Meanwhile, workers, professionals, housewives, even nuns begin joining the students. More activists disappear. A couple of them resurface to say they have been tortured by men they imply are connected to the military.

MAY

Suharto says political reforms will only be implemented after his current term ends in 2003. The government lifts fuel and electricity subsidies, sparking price hikes. In Medan, north Sumatra, street riots by looters pick up after a student demo ends. Eyewitnesses said six people died. In Jogjakarta, a young unemployed engineer - just a bystander - is beaten to death. Angry mobs join the students and cause the protests to get out of hand. In Bogor, outside Jakarta, an officer dies after angry students throw rocks at him. On May 12, six students are shot to death at Trisakti University in Jakarta.

- By Yenni Kwok


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