Survivors Describe Mass Killings Under Indonesian Dictator Suharto
Jan 27, 2008 17:02 EST
Hiding out in the dense, humid jungle, Markus Talam watched Indonesian soldiers herd manacled prisoners from trucks, line them up and mow them down with round after round of automatic weapons fire.
It was 1968, and the killings were part of a final offensive by forces under Gen. Suharto to wipe out the communist party and secure his position as leader of Indonesia, now the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
“They gunned them down and dumped their bodies in a mass grave dug by other prisoners. I remember the sound of the guns clearly: tat-tat, tat-tat, tat-tat … over and over again,” said Talam, 68, who was later jailed for 10 years after being named a leftist sympathizer.
Suharto, who died on Sunday at a Jakarta hospital, seized control of the military in 1965 and ruled the country for 32 years, suppressing dissent with force and supported by an American government at the height of the Cold War.
Estimates for the number killed during his bloody rise to power — from 1965 to 1968 — range from a government figure of 78,000 to 1 million cited by U.S. historians Barbara Harff and Ted Robert Gurr, who have published books on Indonesia’s history. It was the worst mass slaughter in Southeast Asia’s modern history after the Khmer Rouge killing fields in Cambodia.