Human Rights Watch World Report 1999: Indonesia and East Timor (Events of 1998)

Final Report of The Joint Fact-Finding Team (TGPF) on the May 13-15, 1998 Riot

The amendments to the United States Senate version of the FY 1999 Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that "the mistreatment of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia and the criminal acts carried out against them during the May 1998 riots in Indonesia is deplorable and condemned," passed without dissent on September 1, 1998. For more details, please read: Amendments Related to the Indonesian Riots.

Also, United States Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced on September 10, 1998 that she had included language in the report accompanying the House version of this appropriations bill urging the Clinton Administration to make the treatment of ethnic Chinese central to its policy towards Indonesia.

Latest News & Analyses


On May 13-15, 1998, riots broke out across Indonesia after four students were fatally shot by security forces during an anti-government demonstration at Trisakti University in Jakarta. At the time, only looting and destruction of properties against the ethnic Chinese minority were reported by news media around the world. Only recently did the horrifying atrocities committed against the ethnic Chinese during the mayhem begin to surface (these are only tentative figures for cases already confirmed by credible human rights groups, with the actual figures likely to be higher, especially for the rapes, since most victims are too afraid, ashamed or traumatized to come forward):

many among the 1198 murdered (including 27 shot) and the 31 missing
40 shopping centres burnt
4083 shops burnt
1026 houses burnt
168 girls and women raped.

Particularly gruesome is the report that most rape victims, from age 9 to 55, were savagely gang-raped in public, often in front of their own families. About twenty of them died after their miseries: some were killed by their tormentors; some died of injuries afterwards; and some committed suicide. Any decent human beings will have their blood boiling and hearts bleeding on learning what those inhuman, barbarous and monstrous Indonesian beasts have done. ["Muslim beasts" hätte es wohl eher getroffen, Anm. Dikigoros]

More indignantly, mounting evidence strongly suggest that these riots, originally believed to be spontaneous outbursts, were indeed masterminded to deliberately target the ethnic Chinese minority, with complicity by elements of the security forces. In time-honoured fashion of Indonesian politics, government officials, led by President B. J. Habibie, at first denied the atrocities. With their shameless lies subsequently punctured by solid proofs, they proceeded to qualify and rationalize these heinous crimes, as if they were natural disasters that were bound to happen. The utterly despicable absurdity reached new heights in Mr. Habibie's recent interview with Business Week, published in the August 3, 1998 issue. In it, he disputed that the May riots were racially motivated, despite clear evidence to the otherwise. He even went on to brazenly imply that those ethnic Chinese victims were attacked because "they didn't give to the community."

Even more furiously, in the aftermath, some surviving victims and families of the dead received intimidation, ranging from abduction warnings to death threats, to remain silent. Some rape victims even received photographs taken when they were raped as a form of psychological torment and ultimate humiliation. With the government's credibility and reputation in tatters, and its impartiality doubtful, and with its tacit endorsement and subtle advocate of some indigenous population's condescending, racist, scornful and hateful attitudes, mixed with envy and covetousness, towards the ethnic Chinese, these much terrified souls dare not speak out themselves to demand justice. But you can.

Ethnic Chinese in Indonesia have suffered a long history of discrimination and persecution. They are denied many rights enjoyed by other non-native minority groups. Whenever there are hardships, they are always cast as scapegoats. In a civil strife in mid-Sixties, literally tens of thousands of ethnic Chinese were massacred. [Hört hört - 1998 gingen selbst Chinesen, die sicher über jeden Verdacht der Verharmlosung erhaben waren, von einer "nur" 5-stelligen Zahl der Opfer aus. Inzwischen liegen die Schätzungen im 6-stelligen Bereich und bewegen sich langsam, aber sich auf den 7-stelligen zu, Anm. Dikigoros, den das stark an die Zahlen der Shoa-business-men erinnert, die aus den 300.000 vom Schweizer Roten Kreuz bei Kriegsende ermittelten KZ-Opfern insgesamt - also incl. Nicht-Juden - die "symbolische" Zahl von "6 Millionen" Juden allein gemacht haben.] By all estimates, the economic crisis will worsen towards the end of this year, plunging the people into more suffering and the country into more chaos. Impotent to halt this unavoidable slide in the face of expected mass discontent, it is very tempting for the government to find a scapegoat to disguise its inadequacy, with the ethnic Chinese again being the obvious choice. Another round of barbarity looms ominously on the horizon. The much terrified ethnic Chinese in Indonesia can do nothing but consign their fate to Heaven. But you can.

I strongly urge every single one of you, regardless of nationality, to petition your respective government and relevant international organizations, such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank etc., to pressure the Indonesia Government to take immediate and concrete actions to safeguard the lives and properties of the ethnic Chinese, and to set up a credible and independent commission to fully investigate the May 13-15 commotion, and to bring all masterminds and perpetrators of these riots to the fullest extent of justice, and to issue formal apologies and pay due compensations to the victims of the riots as soon as possible. Also, please send a carbon copy of your petition to the Indonesia Embassy in your country too. Furthermore, please spread these efforts as widely as possible to your friends. Those utterly despicable savageries were indeed insults to human dignity and crimes against humanity. Here are lists of relevant contact information:

Contact Information of World Leaders
Indonesian Embassies around the World

There is a "Sign for Humanity" drive at the following website, please show your concern and support of the victims of those riots by signing this online petition. The result will be presented to the United Nations Center for Human Rights.

Severe Warning: Below are some websites containing photographs taken during the riots. Some contain nudity; some show burnt human corpses; and some depict heinous crimes in action. They are extremely disturbing and repulsive. Please exercise your own discretion whether to view them or not.

Note: A tiny few pictures of the rape victims in the above websites may not be from the May 13-15, 1998 riots. These victims, whom have been honestly mistaken as Chinese women, may be East Timorese women raped by the invading Indonesian Army. But still, the savage, brutish and bestial nature of some elements of the Indonesian armed forces is fully exposed. Indeed, a few days before the riots, some of these very same troops from the East Timorese front-line were mysteriously transported back to Jakarta. And it is now suspected that these men in uniform were involved in the riots. For more details, please read this investigative report by Asiaweek, published in its July 24, 1998 issue:

New evidence indicates that the riots that convulsed Jakarta during May were masterminded

The organized gang rapes of ethnic Chinese women during the riots are well documented in a July 13, 1998 report by Tim Relawan untuk Kemanusiaan (The Volunteers Team for Humanity), which is headed by Father Sandyawan Sumardi, a respected Indonesian human rights activist:

THE RAPES IN THE SERIES OF RIOTS: The Climax of an Uncivilized Act of the Nation Life

Below are some other reports and materials related to the May riots, and about the ethnic and religious tensions that have been prevalent in Indonesia, especially after the onset of the Asian Crisis:

Human Rights Watch: Excerpts: Human Rights Watch World Reports
U.S. Department of State: Excerpts: U.S. State Department Human Rights Reports
Go Gien Tjwan: A Brief History of Ethnic Chinese in Indonesia

Human Rights Watch, September 8, 1998: Indonesia: The Damaging Debate on Rapes of Ethnic Chinese Women
Dr. Saparinah Sadli, August 3, 1998: Dr. Saparinah Sadli's Open Letter to the Minister of Defence and Security
Tim Relawan, July 28, 1998: Father Sandyawan's Speech in the U.S. Congress
Tim Relawan, June 9, 1998: The Plunder Status on the Riot
Tim Relawan, May 22, 1998: Riot Pattern in Jakarta and Surroundings
Human Rights Watch, February, 1998: INDONESIA ALERT: Economic Crisis Leads to Scapegoating of Ethnic Chinese
Human Rights Watch, May 16, 1994: The Anti-Chinese Element: Excerpts: The Medan Demonstrations And Beyond

Latest News

Far Eastern Economic Review, March 11, 1999 Edition: Chinese Activism in Indonesia
Straits Times, March 9, 1999: Moslems Attack Christian Buildings in Bandung
Straits Times, March 9, 1999: More Deaths in Ambon, 'Holy War' Looms
Straits Times, March 7, 1999: Only A Few Want Holy War, Says Muslim Leader
Yahoo! News, March 5, 1999: U.S. Presses Indonesia To Bring Rogues To Justice
The Jakarta Post, March 5, 1999: Dozens Injured in Clash Between Students and Troops
Straits Times, March 4, 1999: Call for Jihad in Ambon
The Jakarta Post, March 2, 1999: ABRI Establishes Crack Riot Force
[More News]


The Straits Times, February 25, 1999: Indonesia's Different Language of Race
Inside Indonesia - Digest, February 23, 1999: Is Indonesia Really Breaking Down?
Reuters, January 26, 1999: Indonesian Strife Blamed on Dark Forces
The Boston Globe, January 25, 1999: Chinese: Victims of Bias in Indonesia
Far Eastern Economic Review, January 21, 1999 Edition: Loosening The Bonds
Inside Indonesia - Digest, December 16, 1998: Indonesia's Flames Were Lit Years Ago
Asiaweek, December 11, 1998 Edition: To Stave off Chaos, Indonesia Needs an Election - Soon
The Jakarta Post, December 4, 1998: Lawlessness Worse Than Disintegration
TIME Asia, November 30, 1998 Edition: Armed and Dangerous
Reuters, November 23, 1998: Invisible Hand Sought in Indonesia Rage
TIME Asia, November 23, 1998 Edition: So Much for Stability
Inside Indonesia - Digest, November 16, 1998: The End of Gradual Reform: What Next?
The Straits Times, November 9, 1998: Pressures Build up in Indonesia
The Straits Times, November 8, 1998: What Really Happened?
The Straits Times, November 8, 1998: Long, Hard Road to The Truth
The Straits Times, November 8, 1998: Facts And Flaws in Investigation Reports
The Jakarta Post, November 4, 1998: Excerpts of Joint Team's Findings on May Riots
GATRA, October 31 Edition, 1998: Sorcery Terror: ABRI to Cabinet Member as Accused
The Straits Times, October 30, 1998: Java's Ninja Terror
The Straits Times, October 27, 1998: Indonesia's Facing a Leadership Crisis
The Sydney Morning Herald, October 26-29, 1998: The New Indonesia
Inside Indonesia - Digest, October 26, 1998: Is Indonesia Too Violent to be Democratic?
The Jakarta Post, October 21, 1998: Sectarian Politics Resurface and Exploit Race Issue
The Straits Times, October 16, 1998: Stop Indonesia's Slide into Lawlessness
Tim Relawan, October 13, 1998: A Challenge for Humanitarian Work
Inside Indonesia, October-December, 1998 Edition: Rape Is Rape
Asiaweek, October 2, 1998 Edition: Habibie Must Give Top Priority to Feeding His People
Asiaweek, September 25, 1998 Edition: Descent to Chaos
The Jakarta Post, September 17, 1998: Power Dictates Whether Proof of Rape Exists
The Asian Wall Street Journal, September 10, 1998: Soothing Indonesia's Resentments
Human Rights Watch, September 8, 1998: New Report Says Official Denials of Indonesian Rapes Hinder Investigation
Inside Indonesia - Digest, August 31, 1998: The Rapes and Communalism
The Asian Wall Street Journal, August 28, 1998: Exploding the Myths About Overseas Chinese
The Jakarta Post, August 14, 1998: Indonesia: The Myth of Chinese Domination
Inside Indonesia, July-September, 1998 Edition: Suharto, War Criminal
Inside Indonesia - Digest, June 16, 1998: Indonesian Politics Become More Islamic
Inside Indonesia - Digest, May 29, 1998: The May Riots

Comment (October 14, 1998): Was Ita's Murder Result of a Robbery Attempt?
Comment (September 23, 1998): The Genie of Rioting Is Already out of the Bottle
Comment (September 8, 1998): Indonesia's Rot Goes Deeper Than Economic Woes
Comment (August 29, 1998): Indonesia Government's Double-Faced Talks
Comment (August 21, 1998): One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward

Below are some useful links to keep abreast of the latest developments in the Indonesian tragedy:

LateLine News -- Indonesia Crisis 1998
Yahoo! News -- Full Coverage -- Indonesia
Indonesia Daily News Online
The Straits Time
Huaren -- What's New
CNN World News -- Asia Pacific
Human Rights Watch -- Indonesia -- The Post-Soeharto Period

This website was created on August 5, 1998

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