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World - Asia/Pacific

Reports allege organized raping during Indonesian riots

Damage to ethnic Chinese property from the riots was in the millions of dollars  
Indonesia's ethnic makeup:
Ethnic Chinese comprise a relatively small portion of Indonesia's total population of more than 209 million people.

Here's a look at Indonesia's ethnic breakdown:
Javanese 45 %
Sundanese 14 %
Madurese 7.5%
Malay 7.5%
Ethnic Chinese about 4%
Other 22%
Sources: CNN Interactive and The New York Times Almanac 1998

June 28, 1998
Web posted at: 11:51 a.m. EDT (1551 GMT)

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- The Indonesian military and government are investigating reports that ethnic Chinese women were victims of organized sexual attacks during devastating riots in May, officials tell CNN.

Human rights groups are also looking into the accusations and say they are documenting what they believe was an organized campaign of racially motivated assaults, gang-rapes and killings of ethnic Chinese during the riots.

"There is no doubt in my mind that these riots were organized. Well organized, even prepared by certain groups two weeks in advance," said Father Sandyawan Sumardi, of the Volunteer Team for Humanity.

The food riots and anti-government protests first surfaced about mid-February, as a plummeting currency and other economic woes angered the population.

University students, in particular, held near-daily protests calling for political reforms. By May, the demonstrations gave way to large-scale violence in which hundreds of people died.

The government bowed to protesters' demands, and Suharto, who had been in power 32 years, resigned the presidency.

Ethnic Chinese make up about 4 percent of Indonesia's population, and many are business owners. Typically considered scapegoats in Indonesia, it was the homes and businesses of the ethnic Chinese that were targeted during the riots.

Tan Guan Tjai told CNN he lost his entire family to the violence.

His wife and two daughters were burned alive as they hid from the angry mob, Tan said.

CNN's Matthew Chance reports on the investigation from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

VXtreme streaming video (2:37)

"Everything I love has been taken away. Now my life is finished. There is nothing left," he said.

Although officials are looking into the allegations, finding evidence may be difficult.

Tan Guan Tjai said his family was burned alive as they hid from the mobs  

Many of the alleged rape victims were reportedly burned to death afterward, and survivors are reluctant to talk for fear of reprisals.

Few Indonesians believe justice, if warranted, will be served.

One young woman told CNN she had been sexually attacked during the violent weeks. She agreed to be interviewed, but not identified.

"I cannot understand what I have done wrong," she said. "I live in Indonesia, grew up in Indonesia, I can't even speak Chinese. So why are the people here so cruel? Now when I see anyone, I am scared."

Correspondent Matthew Chance contributed to this report.

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