ad info

 web features
 magazine archive
 customer service
  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia

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


OVER THE NEXT FOUR days the violence ebbed and the drama moved off the streets. Suharto returned from Cairo at 4:40 a.m. on May 15, landing at Halim military airport in east Jakarta. A convoy of 100 armored vehicles escorted him to his home in central Jakarta. Soon after, the first Scorpion tanks and battalions rolled into the city center.

Shattered glass, blackened cars, smashed televisions and much more littered the streets. Banks, businesses, government offices and schools were closed. Only the international airport was open. As firefighters extinguished blazes at malls, the death toll rose. Fathers looking for their children, wives searching for their husbands arrived at hospitals to identify victims. In most cases the bodies were unrecognizable, and hundreds were buried in mass graves.

Paramedics from the Volunteer Team for Humanity came across a badly injured man outside a military compound in east Jakarta. They brought him to their headquarters to treat his head wounds. There, says the group's founder Father Sandyawan, the man confessed to being recruited, shown how to start trouble, paid an initial two dollars and transported to Jatinegara by men he could not identify or easily describe.

He said he had been part of a group of eight recruits from West Java, who had been given stones and gasoline bombs. He thought he was the only one of the eight to survive the riots. Father Sandyawan said that the young men had been housed and briefed for two weeks in a military compound on the southern outskirts of the city. (He believes the account but cannot say how accurate his information is because the man is suffering a brain injury.)

The exodus gathered pace. Thousands of ethnic Chinese Indonesians and foreigners left by air, by water if they had to. At 5 a.m. on May 17, a foreign woman and her infant were escorted to the airport under diplomatic protection. At every roadblock, the driver gave a prearranged signal. Soldiers hidden behind the barricades appeared to let the car through. Some believe the troops were told not to stand in full view because commanders feared attacks, possibly by other soldiers.

Prabowo visited the Jakarta home of slain student Hery Hartanto at 10 a.m. on May 17. As Hery's parents looked on, Prabowo held a copy of the Koran over his head and swore he did not order the Trisakti killings. Hery's father, Sjahrir Muljo Utomo, a retired army officer, later said he did not know whether to believe him or not.

As Jakarta residents began to clean up, Suharto's former allies started looking for a face-saving way to convince him to resign. Parliamentary leaders talked of impeachment. But this was potentially unconstitutional and threatened to spark a confrontation between the military and Parliament. As it was, a clash was looming between soldiers and activists who planned a million-person demonstration on May 20.

Then Wiranto asserted himself, throwing his support behind Suharto, but urging the president to appoint a new cabinet and launch reforms. Meanwhile, the students, emboldened by Suharto's fading presence, decided to take their protest to the citadel of his power. The first protesters arrived at Parliament by military transport early May 19. They wore their university jackets and showed their identity cards at the gate.

At 11 a.m., Suharto made a rare appearance on national television. Reading from a script, he vowed to leave office as soon as possible. He promised new parliamentary elections under new laws; that neither he nor Habibie would seek another term in office; and that he would set up a council to oversee political reform.

Afterward, the students said they would not leave Parliament until Suharto quit. That night some 3,000 students stayed on the Parliament grounds. They slept in tents or on plastic sheets. Middle-class supporters passed them food and bottled water.

Habibie called on Suharto that night, associates say, fearing his political career had ended prematurely that morning. Suharto had pledged to hold elections rather than hand over to his vice president. Habibie, say colleagues, was hurt. He promised Suharto a dignified retirement, and warned that others might not be so reasonable.

Back to Page 4

Next: Page 6

This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek home



U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN

Back to the top   © 2000 Asiaweek. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.