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Concern mounts for Aceh as Indonesia launches military offensive

The British Caritas agency CAFOD has expressed concern over the situation unfolding in the Indonesian province of Aceh after the Indonesian military launched a major offensive against separatist rebels.

Peace talks in Tokyo aimed at ending the 26 year long conflict between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government collapsed at the weekend. GAM demands independence for their resource-rich province from Jakarta's rule. The fighting pits the 3000 rebels against the 28,000 Indonesian security forces and police.

CAFOD said past military operations in Aceh have resulted in over 10,000 casualties, the vast majority civilians. The agency is calling on both sides of the conflict to uphold the Geneva Conventions in protecting civilians and ensuring the safety of those displaced by the fighting.

An estimated 15,000 people have already been displaced because of the recent violence and CAFOD fears that the figure will grow.

CAFOD's Head of Asia Catherine Sexton said: "It is very difficult to get food and medical supplies to people displaced by the fighting. Both belligerents in the conflict must ensure that aid can get safely to those that need it most."

CAFOD provides an emergency grant of $A124,870 a year to the Jesuit Refugee Service for their work with internally displaced people in Aceh.


Jesuit Refugee Service Indonesia
Continuing violence leads to further displacement (Jesuit Refugee Service, International)
Schools torched in Aceh conflict (BBC)
When the army's brutal fist comes knocking at the door (The Age)

21 May 2003