Indonesia's Hot Spots

Indonesia has been plagued by violence over much of the past two years of economic recession and political instability.

The prolonged crisis has kindled ethnic, religious and separatist-based attacks which many fear could trigger the disintegration of Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous state.

Last year, Indonesia's youngest province East Timor voted to break away from Jakarta's rule, sparking a campaign of murder and destruction by military-backed gangs who opposed independence.

Following are some of the major areas in Indonesia where pro-independence movements are strong or where there has been repeated violence over the past year.

West Kalimantan

Part of the large island of Borneo and scene early 1999 of some of the most savage communal fighting the country has seen in years. The target was immigrants from the island of Madura, most of whom fled.


This staunchly Muslim region is at the forefront of calls for independence among Indonesia's remaining 26 provinces. More than half a million Acehnese protested in the local capital last November to demand a chance to vote for independence. The growing hostility against Jakarta follows years of human rights violations there by the military and a feeling that the central government is pocketing most of the wealth from Aceh's abundant natural resources.

Acehnese leaders plan to meet on the issue later this month.


The east Sumatran province is another of Indonesia's resource-rich region where an independence movement is on the boil. Riau has huge reserves of oil. There has been little violence but a number of protests against Jakarta's rule.

Irian Jaya

Taken over by Indonesia in the 1960s, the province covers the western half of New Guinea island and has huge natural resources and a strongly anti-Indonesian population. There is occasional fighting between separatists and troops, as well as between locals and migrants from other areas.

Irianese leaders are due to meet President Abdurrahman Wahid in Jakarta next week.

South Sulawesi

The local capital Makassar was the scene of several pro-independence rallies following Wahid's election last October.

The Moluccas

The famed spice islands of history. Although Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, these islands in the far east of the archipelago have a mixed population of Christians, Muslims and animists. At least 1,500 have died in communal fighting in the islands, about a third of them in the past month. Analysts say the root cause is religious and ethnic tension sparked by the economic downturn. Early in Indonesian independence, parts of the island group pushed for their own state.


The capital has been the center of repeated and often violent political protests during the past year, though the weeks following Wahid's election have largely been quiet and the city has the appearance of finally returning to normal.

As with other major urban centers, anger over high prices and unemployment has prompted unrest. The relatively wealthy ethnic Chinese minority in the north of Jakarta was a particular target during 1998 but there have been few reports of such attacks more recently.

West Timor

Its border is packed with East Timorese who fled there after the pro-Jakarta militia violence following the August independence ballot. It is also the hiding place for pro-Jakarta militias who have said they would cross back into East Timor to fight multinational forces there. U.N. officials have warned of fresh violence on the border.