Abri told to shoot rioters

General Wiranto orders crackdown on mob violence that is threatening Indonesia’s international standing

INDONESIAN armed forces chief General Wiranto yesterday told his commanders they could order troops to shoot rioters on sight to quell the mob violence that has been ripping through the country.

“These people are attacking public property and destroying churches and mosques.

“If this continues, it will affect our standing in the international community,” he told reporters after a meeting of his Abri high command.

He warned of “firm and repressive measures” against rioters and looters, not just in “trouble spots” but throughout the country. “I have ordered my troops to crack down on people who do not respect the law,” he said. “This could mean shooting rioters on sight … This needs special therapies, this needs specific handling.”

His decision came in the wake of continued unrest, looting and mob violence across the country.

Sources close to him told The Sunday Times that the four-star general was “upping the ante” given the increasing pressure to end the growing political and social violence.

Said a military source: “Human rights groups might question if it is the right response.

“But the situation is getting worse and what we are seeing every day does not offer any grounds for optimism.”

The source added that Abri was monitoring “hot spots” in Aceh, Medan, Surabaya, Solo and Ujung Pandang – large cities that could implode given the sensitive mix of ethnic, religious, labour and economic issues.

Gen Wiranto’s warning of a crackdown found expression even before his formal announcement.

Police in Central Java warned looters on Friday that they would be shot on sight for targeting teak plantations.

Clashes earlier in the week between police and looters left several injured.

Other cities also continued to be hit by violence.

In the Sumatran town of Tanjungbintang, hundreds attacked a police post and torched two cars and four motorcycles after failing to obtain the release of three villagers detained on suspicion of theft from a rubber plantation and the murder of a guard.

Two attackers were shot and injured and the police post chief was hit by stones during the incident on Thursday, the Media Indonesia daily said yesterday.

Over in Mempawah, north-west of the West Kalimantan provincial capital of Pontianak, scores attacked the local parliament on Friday after a politician failed to gain approval as a candidate in elections for the district chief.

Gen Wiranto said yesterday that he was setting up a special task force of generals to investigate and end unrest in places like Aceh, Irian Jaya and Ambon.

Analysts believe, however, that the most critical factor in combating unrest was an effective intelligence system that up until now has been slow to respond to ethnic and religious conflicts over the last year.

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