The wall of silence in Indonesia surrounding one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century is beginning to fall apart.
A forthcoming report by Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights estimates that a purge of suspected communists during the mid-1960s killed between 600,000 and 1 million people.
The violence reshaped Indonesia’s political landscape and affected the course of the Cold War, just as the U.S. was escalating its fight against communism in Southeast Asia.
Yosep Adi Prasetyo, the commission’s deputy chairman, says:
“We conclude that there have been gross human rights violations, which can be classified as crimes against humanity,”
He says the report places the blame squarely on Indonesia’s military dictator Suharto, who died four years ago. Prasetyo says:
“We found that the military and police were involved in the killings, as well as forced disappearances, rape, forced movement of people, torture and other crimes,”
A major general in the Indonesian army at the time, Suharto ousted Sukarno, the revered Indonesian independence leader and the country’s first president, in the wake of the kidnapping and killing of senior Indonesian generals on Sept. 30, 1965.
Suharto blamed those murders on the Indonesian Communist Party, then the largest in the noncommunist world. Suharto also suspected Sukarno of complicity in the killings, which the perpetrators said were to prevent the generals from launching a coup attempt against the president. The military, under Suharto, then ordered that communists be hunted down.
Read Full Text: Exposing Indonesia’s Cold War Communist Purge