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A force had been unleashed against which Sukarno had little power. Through November a slaughter took place across much of Indonesia, including the capture and execution of the Communist leader, Aidit. Army officers in league with Untung were executed. Bands of Muslim young men roamed about killing people, sometimes by beheading. Landlords moved to get lands back that had been taken from them in Communist led land-reforms. Old feuds were revived and murderously resolved on the pretext of rooting out Communists. In some instances, anti-Communists arrived in communities, assembled local men and ordered women and children to stay home.

Names were read from lists, and they were described as Communists, atheists and people not certified as members of any religion. The named were roped together.

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Those not roped-off were told that those within the ropes were their enemies. Damsyuki [Orr's respondent] and his colleagues were inexperienced amateurs and there were no directions from the government as to the criteria that should be applied. As the days went by, and the makeshift prison was filled, news began to get through of widespread slaughter in other parts of the residency, some of it clearly beyond the control of even such a makeshift body of investigator-prosecutor-judges as themselves. Better a few semi-judicial errors than uncontrolled mayhem Orr There is evidence that people had been detained and killed in several subdistricts in Klaten, including Prambanan, Ceper and Tulung.

But most of the detainees were held at the central facilities in Klaten town. Their experiences offer further insight into how Suharto's instructions worked out in practice. As has been noted before, some members of the armed forces were not trusted by their own superiors to conduct the investigations reliably, and so civilian volunteers were brought in to brutalise the detainees.


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The militants belonging to a detachment called Mahasura Mahasiswa Surakarta, Students from Surakarta were renowned for their ruthlessness and hatred of communism:. I still got beaten even though I said that. When you returned from an interrogation, you found your friends back at the camp had already prepared a soothing powder bobok to treat your injuries.

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The Mahasura were simply inhuman. Civilians not only became involved through interrogations, but also through the investigative side of the screening process. For the investigators in the central facilities, this task meant receiving information from the villages. Given that there were around municipalities in Klaten at that time with an overall population of about , to , people, the investigators at the KODIM could not possibly have known about the political situation and the role of individuals without receiving reports from the villages in which they lived.

It would be surprising if the army's intelligence apparatus had not played a crucial role in identifying PKI members during the killings in Indonesia — Anderson , for instance, highlights the role of army intelligence in East Java. But it remains unclear how much capacity this apparatus had in Central Java and how it operated there during the first two years of the killings. Much the same can be said of the aforementioned KORAMIL, which normally could have been expected to provide subdistrict-level information to the central investigation teams at the district level.

Indeed, several witnesses mentioned that the KORAMIL played a role in arresting detainees, either as collection points for prisoners who had been swept up in nearby operations and were then transferred to larger camps or by actively assembling people, who then were also transferred to prison camps at the district level.

In contrast, it is not clear which role the KORAMIL played in the process of selecting detainees for execution or if they played any role at all. In the absence of such tangible evidence, the role of both KORA MIL and army intelligence in collecting information about potential execution targets can be identified as a matter for further research. On the other hand, there is evidence which suggests that the authorities received information from civilians, both individuals and organisations. This evidence shows that the authorities indeed had a need for information from the grassroots.

While it is not possible to determine with any precision how much information the army received from its own intelligence and how much it received from civilians, it is clear that the involvement of information from civilians opened the door for people to take their own initiative and denounce others:. A: Things were submitted from the area [where they lived], from their environment.

A: Well, the branch leaders of the various organisations. Denunciation as an aspect of repression was a feature of all authoritarian regimes in the 20th century. As a subject of historical research, this phenomenon has been studied more comprehensively by Gellately since the s with regard to European history see Gellately , but his conclusions are also relevant to the topic of this article on Indonesia.

Denunciations are an inherently interactive process between the state and society. Historically, denunciations offered disadvantaged or marginalised people an opportunity to exercise power or to take revenge against those they saw as having taken advantage of them. In such cases, loyalty to the repressive regime was not the primary motive for denunciation and the regime's search for political wrongdoing was merely a convenient opportunity for the denouncers.

Holdings: The end of Sukarno :

Reports to the authorities about such wrongdoings were therefore also used to resolve friction with family members, friends, colleagues or neighbours. Moreover, the more a repressive system is hungry for information about wrongdoing, the more it opens itself up to manipulation through personally motivated reports.

Evidence from Klaten suggests that this form of manipulation also occurred in A: Well, people chat to each other every day, don't they? People knew about each other. Back then, when Sarwo Edhie arrived, he relied on such [word-of-mouth] reports. They weren't objective because of personal interests, quarrels among heirs, for instance, quarrels over women, girlfriends [and so on]. One former detainee who had already been selected for execution, but then narrowly escaped this fate was told by his captors that they had relied on reports from his home village for his selection.

He also recounted that in other cases informers used such opportunities to their own advantage confidential interview no. Sugijanto confirms this finding, noting the establishment of a screening team in the district of Prambanan in Klaten.

Hasworo 37 , who also brought similar events to light, suggests that personal interests may have overridden political motives at times. Even though the evidence suggests that there might have been a distinction between private and ideological motives for denunciation, one has to be careful in drawing the conclusion that such a distinction can actually be made. Cribb has pointed out that by private and political antagonisms had become largely conflated in Indonesia.

The question of whether or how far these two motivations can be seen as being separate might be a subject of further research. What the evidence makes clear, however, is that the state found it impossible to separate its agenda for political violence from the agendas of those whose help it needed to find its targets. It also remains unclear how far denouncers could go in reporting people to the authorities, as there is no evidence that anyone who was an opponent of the PKI, for instance, was killed because of false accusations. By and large, denunciations only appear to have been effective against people who could be accused of having had at least a slight connection to the party.

It can be assumed that such informal intervention worked in favour of those whom members of the local elite considered to merit such a step, which would have made people who lacked such connections vulnerable.

End of Sukarno: A Coup That Misfired : A Purge That Ran Wild

The study of denunciation therefore shows that the state's inadequate capacity to target violence against such a large number of individuals in such a short time was, to a certain extent at least, complemented by people who were outside these institutions. They showed initiative in supplying information that allowed the army to identify potential targets and decide what to do with them. The state institutions which were tasked with persecuting the PKI in Central Java had too few reliable men and too little time to identify and process such a large number of potential execution targets thesis 1.

Improvisation became a key feature of this form of persecution thesis 2. Makeshift detention facilities were needed to concentrate those swept up in mass arrests before it could be decided what to do with them, and they allowed the state institutions in charge of them a higher degree of control than if they had sourced out all violence to civilian opponents of the PKI who operated as death squads and directly attacked people in their own homes thesis 3. The amount of confusion and complexity was considerable in these settings. Suharto reacted by streamlining the selection process, mandating the creation of TEPERDA in each location, followed by more elaborate organisation over time.

These screening teams were tasked with gathering information on individual detainees that would facilitate their selection for execution thesis 4. This reliance on information, in connection with limited resources to carry out more probing investigations on their own, led to the involvement of civilians thesis 5.

Civilian involvement often took the form of denunciations. The dynamics of denunciations can be observed throughout the history of political repression, and the Indonesian case confirms the presence of individual initiative, in particular. Moreover, decisions about the selection of detainees for execution were not the state's sole prerogative, even if these detainees were held in facilities guarded and controlled by state institutions thesis 6.

However, what appears to be special about the Indonesian killings is the way in which private and political motivations for denunciations seem to have been largely intertwined with each other. This finding only applies to patterns of violence directly carried out by the armed forces — Jenkins and Kammen make clear that other patterns, such as violence by civilian militias, were also significant in Central Java.

The relationship between state and society was therefore one in which state institutions were driving the turn of events as a whole and caused the mass persecution of civilians in Central Java. But on the level of individual persecution, civilians exercised control from below and therefore moderated individual outcomes according to interests that were not necessarily congruent with the political agenda of the state institutions which were driving the persecution.

In some cases, as we have seen, financial interests took the form of proverbial corruption, thus allowing people to survive even though the state intended to target them for extermination.

by Huges, John

Likewise, favouritism by members of the local elite may have allowed people to escape persecution in a few instances; in other cases, which are potentially large in number, people whom state institutions might otherwise not have ended up detaining or killing lost their freedom or their lives because of the role played by individual initiatives or interventions such as the ones highlighted here. Skip to main content. Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs. Article Menu. Download PDF. Open EPUB. Cite Citation Tools. How to cite this article If you have the appropriate software installed, you can download article citation data to the citation manager of your choice.

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