Wednesday, January 12, 2005

NY Times: Indonesian military restricts movement in Aceh

I suppose it was inevitable given the early signals and the recent history of conflict and abuses in Aceh, but this action by the Indonesian government still makes me angry. From the New York Times by way of SEA EAT.

The Indonesian military on Tuesday ordered restrictions on foreign aid workers, limiting their free operation to the two main cities hit by the tsunami in an effort to assert control over international relief operations here. Outside those cities, Banda Aceh and neighboring Meulaboh, aid workers will need special permission to go into more remote areas where hundreds of thousands of people were uprooted by the disaster.


The general asserted that the new measures were needed to protect foreign aid workers from the separatist rebels that Indonesia has been fighting for 30 years. But rebels from the Free Aceh Movement, known by its acronym GAM, released a statement on Tuesday guaranteeing "the safety and free access to all parts of Aceh for international aid workers."Many foreign aid agencies, including the World Food Program, are generally reluctant to work with military escorts because they fear that accepting the protection of soldiers from one side could drag them into the conflict. Only in "very rare circumstances" does the World Food Program accept military escorts, said Bettina Luescher, the spokeswoman for the program. She pointed to Darfur in Sudan, where a civil conflict rages but where the program's trucks are never accompanied by military personnel.

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