On December 26, 2004, the Indonesian province of Aceh was hit by the massive Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 170,000 people and devastated villages and towns. In the wake of the catastrophe, the Indonesian army and local separatist rebels, the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) ended their decades-long war, which took 15,000 lives. The peace agreement led to free elections, and international aid money began to flow, bringing new prosperity to this impoverished region. In After the Wave, FRONTLINE/World correspondent Orlando de Guzman returns to Aceh, where he had first covered the war, to explore the prospects for continued peace.
De Guzman begins by revisiting the village of Matamamplam, where in 2003 he filed a groundbreaking BBC radio report that implicated the Indonesian military in the execution of seven young men and boys. De Guzman meets with victims' families and human rights workers now calling for justice, and he confronts the Indonesian general who was in charge of the province when the murders took place.
"Everyone violated the human rights law," the general tells de Guzman. “It wasn’t only Indonesia’s armed forces, the cops, the government, but the GAMs also violated the human rights law…. Do we want to keep talking about that? If we want to have peace, we have to bury everything.” De Guzman also meets Aceh's new governor, Irwandi Yusuf, a former rebel leader who escaped from jail during the tsunami and now faces the task of redressing past grievances, without provoking the Indonesian army.
Read a Washington Post discussion of Indonesia: After the Wave with FRONTLINE/World reporter Orlando de Guzman.
Aceh's struggle to recover
Listen to PRI the World's Lisa Mullins in conversation with Orlando de Guzman about his experiences in Aceh. The radio interview was recorded June 26, 2007.
New York, NY
The story personalized the horrors that the people of Aceh have gone through. They are still hesitant to trust their new government; a government embodied in a governor reluctant to speak and a general reluctance to admit to atrocities. A tentative peace has come to this troubled part of the world. The interviews showed that the people have hope and courage to continue to work toward a better life. Hopefully, in future, a longer piece could be created to learn about the background, present, and future of the people of Aceh.
San Francisco, CA
While a great fan of Frontline and Frontline/World, I'm disappointed in the one-sided reporting from only the Acehnese perspective. While I'm aware that the Indonesian army may have committed atrocities, it would be hard to imagine that GAM was completely clean as well. Incidentally, I would also imagine that most countries would treat secessionists with an iron fist but this seems to escape De Guzman.
I was saddened to see how the people in Aceh, even people like the Governor who had himself been tortured, have had to put aside their past to focus purely on economics. Of course it is understandable that the poor of the country have to focus on their day to day survival, but I wonder if justice will ever be served or sought for the poorer masses. It is good, though unfortunate, to be able to see this other slice of post-tsunami Indonesia that doesn't simply focus on recovery efforts after the disaster.
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