Aceh’s oil and gas natural resource became a subject of dispute as American oil companies began exploration in the 70’s. Unequal distribution of profit between the central government of Indonesia and the natives of Aceh called in for independence with very few followers initially. In order to gain effective control, the Indonesian government sent troops and imposed repressive measures that soon catered to human rights violations as rising grievances catapulted the Free Aceh Movement with the local Aceh Merdeka, “this time with increasing support from the Aceh people who desire for an independent Islamic state”.
The brutal conflict brought to attention so many killings of people suspected of belonging to the Aceh Merdeka “with Indonesian Forces systematically employing means to deploy executions while preventing others from supporting the movement”. This has also resulted in many refugees fleeing to Malaysia only to encounter “more hardships with marked dehydration and other forms of illness while fleeing from the grave violations committed by the Indonesian military”.
It is quite understandable though that “the process of late integration of these provinces into the Indonesian state is the common cause of conflict” as the distinct nations with ethnic backgrounds came face to face with Indonesian policies. For the East Timorese and Papuans, being part of the Indonesian nation meant a loss of their national identity and freedom instead of being liberated from colonial powers. Significant nationalist sentiment arose following their integration as a critical juncture in response to Indonesian demands for the adoption of an Indonesian national identity.
Both Papuans and Timorese increased their “levels of vigilance and mobilization while forming groups to form a fight for independence”. In both cases though, the grievances of Papuans and Timorese was fueled by authoritarian policies implemented by Indonesia. Part of which includes the “manipulation of religion that resulted to a shift in the balance of patrimonial access to Christians and Muslims”. Under the Indonesian law, the state had an obligation to uphold and foster religiosity without forcing any religious beliefs in particular.
However, Indonesia’s Islamic beliefs heightened the tensions between Muslims and Christians as a guise of unity enforced religious conflicts to the core. The specter of politicized Islam in the central government has attracted adherents in the lower ranks of the army. The presence of religious fanaticism often leads and aggravates tense situations as the military factions desperately impose its power and participation in various areas of social and political matters.
In addition, “Muslim and Christian religious violence in the Moluccas (Maluku Islands) in the north-central Indonesia particularly in Ambon escalate and reverberated throughout the nation”. Such attitudes are reminiscent of a reaction to the Indonesian government’s attempts to decongest areas in the mainland while “prompting integration between the Islamic Muslim migrants with the local Christians in the areas of Irian Jaya and East Timor”. Likewise the Timorese stage fitting retorts to the repressive rule felt under the Indonesians.
While the Indonesians see East Timor’s case of rebellion rather than recognizing the rights the Timorese wants to uphold, the alternative sources for subjugation ad control were used in order to suppress any resistance to the Indonesian rule. In Aceh however, rebellion was sparked as a reaction to the Indonesian treatment of the Aceh state not anyhow related to any religious movement. Historically, the Acehnese had aligned with the Indonesians against Dutch control but modern economic conceptions and interests brought sentiments of subjugation to the core of Aceh’s complaints.
With a low rate of literacy and traditionally bound localities, Aceh “prompted its own Merdeka forces to oppose loyalty oaths to the Indonesian government”. The explained reasons of “inequitable resource distribution is still the main issue of the conflict” coupled by inconsistencies in the military actions and government protocols to reduce ethnic tension further leading to destabilizing effects and relations over time heightened insecurity and led to rebellion.
The Suharto regime necessarily fueled the conflict as cronyism allowed the “licensing of small scale logging industries to denude and accommodate deforestation”. The military and police involvement in the logging activities working in partnership with entrepreneurs had promoted destruction of ricefields through floods in the region that greatly added to the conflict. New found avenues for peace only instigated feelings of discontent by either side that escalated into the formation of an ideological conflict between the military and the government and the Aceh rebels and warlords on another side.