Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Restricting Aid In Aceh

Given the unresolved history of conflict between the Indonesian government and separatist forces I suppose this latest development was inevitable. Reports here, here and here are now suggesting that the Indonesian military is restricting the movements of foreign aid workers in Aceh. The army spokesman, General Endriartono Sutarto, said all foreigners would have to seek approval before travelling to areas outside the devastated west coast city of Meulaboh and the capital Banda Aceh. The official reason is that foreigners are vulnerable to attacks by the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). Sutarto accepts that these restrictions could slow down relief efforts. For its part, the GAM is claiming a more strategic motive behind the military's decision: "It's a typical military manoeuvre and propaganda aimed at trying to smear GAM" and to regain control over separatist-held areas. Aid agencies that have travelled outside the main towns have not reported any problems with the GAM or other separatist groups.

Meanwhile, Tempo magazine is reporting the presence of a child trafficking syndicate preying on the children in the disaster relief camps.


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