The Acts of the Democracies




Coup in Indonesia (Suharto)

After a coup attempt, up to 400,000 suspected communists are massacred in Indonesia (including 120 members of Congress). Some 250,000 people are sent to prison camps.

Lists of over 5,000 suspects are passed to the government by the USA embassy in Jakarta. The UK also aids the slaughter, directing operations from Singapore. The UK ambassador, Andrew Gilchrist states that: "a little shooting in Indonesia would be an essential preliminary to effective change."

General Suharto slowly takes power in the chaos. Business concessions are made to Western companies. Roland Challis (the BBC's South East Asia correspondent) admits that "getting British companies and the World Bank back in there was part of the deal".

Less than a year later Michael Stewart, the UK Foreign Secretary, would report that the economic situation in Indonesia promised: "great potential opportunities for British exporters... I think we ought to take an active part and try to secure a slice of the cake ourselves".

The West does not report much of what happens or its own involvement in the slaughter. These events are the background to the USA made film, The Year of Living Dangerously.

The Indonesian writer, Pramoedya Ananta Toer describes the scene: "Usually the corpses were no longer recognisable as human. Headless. Stomachs torn open. The smell was unimaginable. To make sure they didn't sink, the carcuses were deliberately tied to, or impaled upon, bamboo stakes."

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