Political unrest sparks peaceful

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s military threatened to crack down on students Thursday if their protests against newly re-elected President Suharto escalate with the deepening economic crisis.
Warnings by armed forces chief Gen. Wiranto came as students stepped up noisy but peaceful campus protests against Suharto, the 76-year-old leader granted a seventh term this week despite Indonesia’s plunging currency, mass unemployment and soaring inflation.
Gen. Wiranto, the country’s top military official, said protesters would face the full weight of the law if the demonstrations caused any damage.
“If their actions are destructive, then … they have to face the legal apparatus, which includes the armed forces,” Wiranto said.
Wiranto urged students and other government opponents to work together with authorities to overcome the country’s worst economic crisis in three decades.
Indonesia’s troubles began eight months ago, when the value of its currency, the rupiah, began plummeting. Since then, prices and joblessness have soared.
A 1,000-member People’s Consultative Assembly ignored the student demands to oust Suharto, and even handed him unspecified emergency powers Tuesday to act against unrest and threats to national security.
Students protesting Thursday in the city of Depok were orderly, marching down a tree-lined avenue on the University of Indonesia campus and gathering to applaud speakers. Outside the campus, trucks carrying about 200 soldiers and riot police armed with sticks and shields lined the street but did not intervene.
“He has to implement economic reform, even if it has a bad impact on his family,” Amien Rais, the head of the 28 million-member Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, told protesters.
Suharto and his family have profited handsomely from his regime, but the terms of a $43 billion International Monetary Fund bailout plan require him to break up the monopolies run by his children.
The IMF has said it will consider being more flexible in its demands on Indonesia to take into account the social impact of change. Still, the IMF has delayed payment of a much-needed loan installment until after Suharto names a new Cabinet, probably on Saturday.
Foreign investors and critics have called on Suharto to choose professionals, though there is speculation Suharto might also include people close to him.
Among the possible Cabinet selections are his eldest daughter, Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana, a millionaire businesswoman commonly known as Tutut, and ethnic Chinese tycoon Mohamad “Bob” Hassan, head of a profitable timber cartel and a presidential golfing buddy.
If picked, Hassan would be the first minister of Chinese descent since Suharto took power in 1966.
Ethnic Chinese make up only a small fraction of Indonesia’s predominately Muslim 202 million population, even though they dominate the national business sectors. Chinese traders were targeted by mobs of rioters in more than 20 towns following rising food prices and falling currency.
Despite weeks of protests on campuses in Jakarta and other major cities, the calls by students for political reform have aroused little public support among most Indonesians. Students, however, vowed to continue.
“At least it’s a kind of stimulus, or driving force, for the other layers of society to know what’s happening in Indonesia,” said one student, Budi Santoso.