Aceh: ecological war zone

Down to Earth No. 47, November 2000

Natural resources are one of the main factors underlying the independence struggle in Aceh, but decades of plunder have left them severely depleted.

The brutal murder of the internationally known Acehnese human rights activist, Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, reminded the world in September that the northern-most tip of Sumatra remains a dangerous place. Despite a 'humanitarian pause' signed by Indonesia and Acehnese independence leaders in June this year, the murders, disappearances and torture have continued. The current war in Aceh - which has been continuing to a greater or lesser degree since the late 1980s - has cost thousands of lives and has forced tens of thousands of people to abandon their homes and livelihoods. At the same time, decades of resource exploitation during the Suharto years and after, have left Aceh's forests, mangrove coasts and fisheries in a state of crisis. This underlying pattern of systematic resource destruction is common to most other parts of the archipelago. In Aceh, the armed conflict and massive military presence has created additional pressures which feed into and compound these problems.



While the military campaign of terror and intimidation continues in Aceh, the Wahid government's public response to calls for independence is to promise the Acehnese more of a say in running their affairs and a higher proportion of revenues from the region's resource-based industries. For Aceh, as well as West Papua, where the independence movement is also strong, the promise is "special autonomy". This is intended to undercut aspirations for independence - which in any case are attributed by Jakarta to "fanatic separatist elements" and not, as Acehnese and Papuan independence leaders claim, to the majority of the population. The Jakarta government - especially the military - has been putting increasing emphasis on Indonesia as a unitary state, with the clear message to Aceh, West Papua - and the international community - that it will not tolerate moves towards independence.

"Special autonomy" implies a greater transfer of power than is envisaged under the regional autonomy measures scheduled for all of Indonesia from the beginning of next year. According to these, local governments - mostly at district level - will receive a far greater portion of the revenues from the industries based in their areas. It is not yet clear what, if any, extra measures will be offered to Aceh and West Papua. In August President Wahid promised that Aceh's special autonomy bill, currently under preparation, would be ready by the end of the year, but this is not guaranteed. (See DTE 46 for more on regional autonomy).

There is a high level of scepticism within Indonesia as to how far Jakarta really intends to hand over any financial control to local governments under regional autonomy. Government ministers who are genuinely committed to implementing autonomy face serious political and economic constraints. Not least is the fear that handing over financial control to the regions will leave Jakarta lacking in funds to service the huge national debt.


Higher revenues not enough

The push for separation from Indonesia gained ground in Aceh with the emergence of the civil society-based referendum movement. This crystallised in 1998 when students used the opportunities created by the more fluid political situation immediately following Suharto's resignation to push for improvements in Aceh. In December 1998 a student group, KARMA, gave then President Habibie 30 days to respond to their demands. These included a share of 80% of revenues for Aceh and wider autonomy, but also focused on investigation of human rights abuses, justice for those responsible and freeing Acehnese political prisoners. Failure to respond would result in the call for a referendum on independence. (Waspada 19/Dec/98 in DTE 40:14)

Habibie failed to respond and an important opportunity for dialogue was lost. Since then the referendum movement has become a well organised and broad-based civil society movement led by SIRA, the Aceh Referendum Information Centre, established in February 1999. The horrific intensification of military brutality in Aceh during the run-up to the 1999 general elections and the failure of President Wahid to find a solution strengthened the movement's resolve. But the emergence of a strong civilian movement committed to independence has also led to new targets for the military. Humanitarian workers, human rights defenders, academics and environmental campaigners have become increasingly vulnerable as shown by the murder of Jafar. There have been many incidents reported where activists have been intimidated with death threats, subjected to humiliation and torture and their premises raided by military of police. In January this year, Sukardi, an activist from the environmental and community development group, Yayasan Rumpun Bambu disappeared in Sawang sub-district, South Aceh. His tortured body was found the following day. 
(Tapol Bulletin 159:2)

Such appalling events have made any alternatives to independence increasingly less acceptable. Until the government shows a real commitment to fulfilling the Acehnese's basic demands on human rights as well as autonomy, there is no reason to think that this will change.


In Aceh, the main revenue earner is natural gas. Gas from Aceh's on- and off-shore fields processed in liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants at Lhokseumawe make up 30% of Indonesia's total oil and gas exports. The LNG complex is operated by Exxon Mobil and state oil company Pertamina. Under regional autonomy rules only 30% of gas revenue is allocated for the producer area (as opposed to 80% of most other non-oil resource revenues) so this would fall far short of a majority share for Aceh. One assumes that under 'special autonomy', Aceh will get a bigger share. According to one scholar, if Aceh were to receive just 50% of the revenue from its oil and gas fields, it would be able to offer free education and free health services to its entire population.

But even assuming that, under 'special autonomy' Aceh is offered a much better deal, holding out the prospect of huge revenues for Aceh could be seriously misleading. This is because it ignores the fact that the current high levels of earnings are not sustainable. Timber forests, mangroves and fish stocks are already severely depleted. Reserves of gas and other minerals are not infinite. According to one estimate, gas reserves are expected to run out within ten years, thus drastically reducing Aceh's revenue-earning potential. Pledges of higher revenues also fail to take into account the high social and environmental costs that extracting these resources incur. In over three decades of gas exploitation, for example, the costs in terms of health, environmental damage and loss of livelihood have never been calculated. When, on several occasions, communities have filed suits for damage to land, crops and other property, they have lost.

In addition, the intolerably high human costs of industry's close association with the Indonesian military have not been deducted from the revenues. In the case of Exxon-Mobil and Pertamina these are the costs of human rights abuses perpetrated by the military using company facilities: the buildings used for torture, the bulldozers used for digging mass graves and the company roads used for transporting the victims. In October 1999, a group of NGOs demanded that Mobil and PT Arun pay compensation and rehabilitate the victims of human rights abuses carried out by the military with the company's support. They also demanded that the company apologise to the Indonesian people, especially the people of Aceh. No compensation or apology has materialised. (See DTE 39 and DTE 40:13 for more on the Mobil case).

Exxon-Mobil has responded to recent attacks on its installations by reiterating the company's "commitment to Indonesia" and its intention to seek further investment in Indonesia. When a US embassy delegation put it to NGOs that it would be Aceh's loss if the company was forced to stop operating, WALHI Aceh's response was that Aceh, as "nation in waiting" would benefit more if operations were stopped "so that there will be something left for the future generations of Acehnese…"

(Source: S.Tiwon: 'From East Timor to Aceh: the Disintegration of Indonesia?' Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars Nos. 1 and 2 (2000) p98WALHI Aceh cited in DTE 45Jakarta Post 31/5/2000, AFP 7/Aug/00)



Natural resource utilisation in Aceh - as in other parts of the archipelago - has been and remains highly unsustainable as well as socially and environmentally devastating. During the Suharto years, Aceh's natural assets were systematically stripped. Forested areas, traditionally owned by indigenous forest farmers, were carved up into huge logging and plantation concessions, covering an estimated 75% of Aceh's total land area. These businesses were - and still are - largely controlled by the Jakarta-based business elite close to Suharto. Concessionaires include timber magnate and close Suharto crony Bob Hasan - currently on trial in Jakarta - (companies include PT Alas Helau and PT Tusam Hutani Lestari operating in North and Central Aceh) and Sukanto Tanoto whose Raja Garuda Mas conglomerate owns PT Bayben Woyla, a timber company operating in West Aceh. Raja Garuda Mas also owns the Indorayon and Riau Andalan pulp mills in neighbouring North Sumatra and Riau, both of which have been beset by pollution problems and land disputes.


Logging companies in Aceh   Timber estates (HTI)
South Aceh: Other districts in Aceh: concessions include:
PT Asdal 
PT Dina Maju 
PT Graha CitraPT Gruti 
PT Hargas Industri Timber
PT Lembah Bakti 
PT Medan Remaja Timber 
PT Wajar Corp
PT Aceh Inti Timber
PT Aceh Prima Plywood
PT Alas Aceh Perkasa
PT Alas Helau
PT Baybem Woyla
PT Lamurl Timber
PT Narindu
PT Overseas Lumber Indonesia
PT Tjipta Rimba Jaya
PT Truasamas Karya Inti
PT Wiralanau
PT Aceh Nusa Indra Puri (pulp)
PT Aceh Swaka Wana Nusa (pulp)
PT Rimba Timur Sentosa (transmigration)
PT Tusam Hutani Lestari (pulp)
PT Rimba Penyangga Utama (transmigration)


(Source: Ministry of Forestry and Plantations 1998; Waspada 26/9/98. 
The Ministry's maps of forests in Aceh and other provinces are available at


The rapacious logging soon led to conflicts with local communities and serious environmental problems. Local flooding and landslides claimed a number of victims during the 1980s. Things reached a critical pass in 1990 when a series of floods hit South and Southwest Aceh, destroying padi fields, sweeping away people's homes and belongings. Thousands of people, whose rice-fields had been destroyed, were threatened with food shortages in an area traditionally known for producing a surplus of rice. Illegal logging was identified generally as a pernicious problem, with companies, local military, police and government officials blaming each other - and local people - for the theft of logs from concessions. Action was taken only against local people. In one case, PT Hargas Industri Timber in Tapak Tuan, South Aceh, terrorised the local population, burning down their huts, accusing them of stealing timber, confiscating villagers' chainsaws and denying them access to forest resources. In retaliation, local people PT South Aceh burned down the company's base camp.

According to Aceh government data at the time, 10 logging concession holders were logging about 600,000 hectares of forest in the two districts of South and West Aceh alone, where about 60% of forest resources had already been exploited. 
(see DTE 9:8 & 12:1-2 and Walhi Aceh 'HPH Hargas Industries Dihentikan Operasinya 11/98)



Aceh's first pulp mill was built by Bob Hasan's PT Kertas Kraft Aceh in 1982. This company also counted Suharto's son Sigit Harjojudanto and former Pertamina chief Ibnu Sutowo among its investors. Timber from the pine forests of Central Aceh logged by PT Alas Helau was used to feed the mill. In the mid 1980s and early 1990s disputes over compensation payments were reported, as local people tried to get payment for land taken for roads and timber concessions. The clear-felling of the pine forests had several negative environmental impacts including erosion and mud in local rivers and the nearby Lake Laut Tawar. It also changed the local micro-climate, affecting coffee production in the vicinity. The building of hundreds of kilometres of haul roads caused dust and noise pollution affecting local crops and fish stocks in the lake, and causing mudslides, which damaged farmland. Local people were obliged to sell the land for the roads at low prices.

A further 300,000 t/yr mill was announced in the mid-1990s by PT Takengon Pulp and Paper, with a start-up date of 2003. This project, run by business magnate Ibrahim Risyad, was given forests of 166,500 hectares to develop timber estates to feed the mill.

(Source: Analisa 5/Feb/00 forwarded by PASe and Sawit Watch; see also DTE: Pulping the Rainforest, July 1991 and G. Aditjondro: News ICEL, 31/May/96 in DTE 29/30:11)


After Suharto

Aceh's natural resources were further decimated during the lawless and crisis-stricken interim administration of President Habibie. This was a time when communities, supported by students and NGOs across Indonesia, started confronting more openly the abuse of the past decades and pressing companies with demands for redress. Aceh was then entering a period of more intense military action despite a public policy of reconciliation and de-militarisation. This period saw a series of massacres and the beginning of the mass evacuations of villages. 
(see also below)

In South Aceh a newly formed organisation called Rimueng Lamkaluet threatened to set fire to all logging concessions in the district unless the forestry minister withdrew the licences of all nine timber operations by October 1998. The threat worked to a limited extent. In November that year a meeting between timber company, PT Hargas, local people, 29 villages heads, forestry office staff, military representatives and NGOs agreed that the company should stop logging, pending the forestry minister's decision to cancel the licence. The forestry department also placed a temporary ban on the activities of PT Medan Remaja Timber, finally cancelling the concession in May 1999. This was only after local people and students, frustrated by the slow pace of negotiations, had burned down the company's base camp. When they discovered that the government wanted to turn the land over to oil palm plantations, the community rejected the plan, calling for the restoration of their land rights. (See DTE42:13) At the time, logging operations in Aceh were estimated to generate Rp 2-2.5 trillion (then US$200-250 million) with only Rp 2 billion ($200,000) trickling back to the region in local budget contributions. 
(Waspada 26/Sep/98 and Walhi Aceh quoted in DTE 40:11-12)


More of the same

Things have not improved since democratic elections in June l999 as the current regime grapples with a tangle of competing political and economic priorities that have left the situation in Aceh unresolved. Also, President Wahid's emphasis on courting foreign investment has meant that pressing issues which affect not only the Acehnese but millions of rural Indonesians - like the forestry crisis, landlessness, pollution and dwindling fish stocks - have been given low priority.

There are still 19 timber concessions in Aceh, of which, according to official data, 17 were operational in 1998. Of a total 4,130,000 area originally classified as forest, timber concessions cover 1.9 million ha, with transmigration sites, protected areas and parks, and, above all, plantations making up the rest. According to WALHI Aceh, twelve of the concessionaires are operating in what are supposed to be protected forests.
(Bisnis Indonesia, 28/Jul/99, figures quoted by PASe in Waspada 13/Nov/00)

WALHI recently rejected a proposal by the Governor of Aceh, businessman Ramli Ridwan, that concessionaires should hand over 30% of their areas to local people, pointing out that this would not solve the problems caused by loggers. WALHI said the timber companies had made no positive contribution to the people of Aceh, instead they had flouted all regulations, destroyed forest and brought conflict to communities.

One recent case WALHI has exposed is that of PT Asdal in Babahrot, Kuala Batee subdistrict, South Aceh. Timber felling by this company has caused local rivers and paddy fields to dry up, destroying irrigation systems on local farms. The company's concession expired in June 1999 last year, but it has continued operations by securing temporary permits from Jakarta and Aceh forestry authorities (although even these expired in March 2000). Neighbouring concessionaire PT Gruti has also successfully secured a two year temporary licence in its 32,000 ha area. (Bisnis22/May/00)

WALHI is calling for a moratorium on all concession licences in Aceh until a survey of land use - which will identify the overlapping of timber concessions with indigenous and local community lands as well as protected forest areas - is completed. It also wants a thorough investigation of concessions, which looks at the conflicts between local people and companies, in order to gain a full picture of the problems of logging in Aceh.

Another environmental NGO, PASe, is pressing for a change in the way natural resources are managed in Aceh. In November last year PASe urged the new government to withdraw all operational licences for timber concessionaires, timber and other plantations and to transfer the management of natural resources to indigenous communities. The group said that those government officials and entrepreneurs behind the destruction should be investigated. PASe also called on Jakarta to withdraw forestry and transmigration department offices in Aceh as these two agencies are regarded as an extension of Jakarta's control, responsible for the destruction of biodiversity in Aceh. 
(Waspada 13/Nov/99)


Gunung Leuser

The Gunung Leuser National Park, a 795,000 hectare area which straddles the North Sumatra and Aceh provincial border, is under siege by illegal loggers who have mounted attacks on park staff. The park management system is part-funded by European Union grants and has, in the past, been criticised by NGOs for the lack of community consultation or participation in the project. The park is one of the last remaining habitats of the orang-utan and other endangered species. (see also DTE 37)

One of the illegal logging cases involves PT Tegas Nusantara, a company owned by a businessman called Acan, alias James Tan. This company has logged a 7,000 - 8,000 hectare area in the Sikundur area of the park. Acan, who was on the North Sumatra police's wanted list, was arrested in July in Medan on a firearms charge. To the disgust of the park authorities and environmental organisations who had amassed plentiful evidence of PT Tegas' activities, he was released. According to local police, there wasn't enough evidence to charge him for illegal logging. NGOs suspect a web of corruption involving the company, local bureaucrats and the security forces. The local forestry office in East Aceh, confirms that the company has no permit, but admits it is powerless to act because of the businessman's strong "backing". (Media Indonesia 5/Aug/00; Serambi 27/Mar/00)


Oil Palm

Oil palm plantations, heavily promoted in Indonesia since the 1980s, have been developed in Aceh, causing more conflict over land. Under economic recovery measures promoted by the International Monetary Fund, oil palm has become even more of a target industry. In Aceh oil palm has expanded sharply. In March 2000 the provincial government was saying Aceh was expected to become one of the country's major crude oil palm (CPO) producers. Some 140,000 hectares have been set aside for oil palm this year. Aceh currently produces about 400,000 tonnes of CPO per year (about 7% of the total for Indonesia in 1999) mostly from 16 palm oil refineries operating on plantations covering 176,000 hectares. This year's expansion alone almost doubles the existing total.

A comparison with three years ago shows how fast the sector grew in the last years of the century. In 1997 the province had 152,000 hectares under palm oil in total. It had 13 processing plants and was producing around 228,000 tonnes per year, just half of the current production total.

Again, most of these large plantations are controlled by the big, Jakarta and Medan-based conglomerates, with very little participation by local entrepreneurs.
(See Jakarta Post 11/Mar/00, 3/Jan/00; 25/Nov/99; Casson, 2000; Polex-List via INCL, 1999)


The war: an added pressure

The military presence in Aceh has led to increased pressure on the natural resource base in a number of ways. In the main conflict zones - Pidie, East Aceh and North Aceh - clashes between armed guerrillas and the Indonesian military, especially intense in 1999, meant that most normal economic activity, including agriculture, ground to a halt. The February 2000 coffee crops were down 40% on 1999 because people were too afraid to go to the fields in the weeks before harvest. Many schools were burned down and almost all government offices at district and sub-district level were inoperative.

The armed conflict and raids on villages conducted by the military, known as 'sweepings', led to large areas of farmland being emptied of their population altogether, with villagers relocating to refugee camps. These mass evacuations - voluntary or otherwise - have undermined agricultural production and made impossible for long periods the maintenance of farmland. In August last year NGOs reported between 27 and 31 camps along the main road from Pidie to North and East Aceh, holding between 100,000 and 200,000 people. In December that year, figures produced by the Aceh NGO Coalition, showed that 300,000 people had fled their homes since February 1999. Whole villages were forced by "unknown men" to move to the camps. (Tiwon 2000, Koalisi HAM Aceh in DTE 44)

During this year most refugees returned home, and only a few hundred remained in camps by May. Recent reports suggest that village evacuations are on the increase again, however, with villagers terrorised by armed conflict and military 'sweepings'. (Acehnese women's organisation, Flower Aceh, quoted in Tapol Bulletin 159:6, and Inside Indonesia Oct-Dec, 2000:23)


Coastal resources

Aceh's coastal resources and fisheries have been damaged by over-exploitation. Local fisherfolk complain of dwindling fish-stocks, theft by illegal trawls and involvement of big business in dangerous, environmentally- destructive fishing practices. In February this year the North Sumatran branch of the Indonesian Fishing Association reported that 80% of the coral reefs lying off the western coast of Aceh and North Sumatra had been badly damaged. As a result, fish stocks were declining. (Kompas23/Fev/00)

According to government data, the region's mangroves (which are mostly on the eastern coast of Aceh) were reduced from over 54,000 ha in 1982 to less than half - 20,000 ha - in 1993. Pressure on mangroves comes mainly from shrimp farming but also housing developments and unsustainable exploitation for the charcoal export industry.

A discussion held by WALHI Aceh in December 1999 identified a list of main problems afflicting the coastal resource management in Aceh. These included the use of trawls, cyanide and fish-bombs to catch fish; illegal fishing; industrial sand-mining and mangrove destruction - all of which are continuing unhindered. They also included the marginalisation of poor indigenous/local coastal communities; the lack of data, research and supervision of coastal resources; the centralistic management approach adopted by the numerous agencies responsible for the coasts and the lack of clear policy direction. 
(Walhi Aceh 30/Dec/99)


Military business

According to Tapol, the 1990-1998 period when Aceh was officially an area of military operation ('DOM') provided both military personnel and government officials with "limitless opportunities to profit financially from this economically fertile region…". These included regular demands for payments from farmers, traders and businesspeople. The elite military Kopassus command, under Suharto's son-in-law Prabowo Subianto, was thought to control the local marijuana business and, in one area at least, took control of gold mining. In this case, a member of the armed forces stationed in Aceh said "I was arrested, tortured and imprisoned, so that Prabowo could have access to those mines."

The security forces are also known to be involved in transporting illegal logs from Aceh to Medan in North Sumatra. From here the logs are taken to factories producing furniture - some of which may be for export. In October there were reports of an exchange of fire between military (TNI) and mobile brigade police (Brimob) personnel, when Brimob tried to stop and confiscate logs from a TNI truck. TNI and Brimob each control a route to Medan and there is an unwritten rule, apparently broken by TNI, not to transport logs on roads controlled by the other. GAM guerrillas too have relied on the local population for financial support and have been known to use threats to demand a share of profits. In one case cited in Tapol's recent report, an Acehnese shrimp farmer was told his staff would be killed if he did not pay a contribution. (Tapol, 2000 - see end)



Transmigration is another aspect of Java's domination of Aceh which has fuelled the independence movement. Transmigrants were brought to Aceh to set up food-crop sites and to work on plantations and timber estates for the pulp and wood-processing industries. The sites were opened in forest areas, depriving local communities of forest resources and increasing the rate of forest destruction. During the 1990s there were sporadic attacks by armed GAM guerrillas on transmigration sites. The settlers, mostly drawn from Java, were seen as tools of Suharto's attempt to enforce national unity and Javanese hegemony by social engineering. Many transmigrants responded to death threats by leaving sites en masse and fleeing to neighbouring North Sumatra or back to Java. During the period before the June 1999 elections, transmigration sites were targeted by GAM, whose members posted death threats on their houses, warning them not to vote and to leave Aceh. At the same time, the military was putting pressure on them to vote. (Tapol 2000:13)

Indonesia's transmigration programme - so long a pillar of Suharto's authoritarian regime - is finally grinding to a halt. Mistakes of the past are being admitted (privately, if not openly) while the financial crisis means that ambitious targets, set in the past, have been abandoned. Under regional autonomy transmigration's role will be further reduced.
(see DTE Update on Transmigration, forthcoming).

This means that the target for Aceh for the 1999/2000 - 20003/4 period of 16,200 families, or 3.6% of the national total - would not be fulfilled even under ideal security conditions. The transmigration ministry, now merged with the manpower ministry, says it is now concentrating on providing homes for internal refugees and dealing with existing transmigrants. In Aceh, as elsewhere, it is a matter of urgency that the problems associated with existing transmigration sites - including recognising the rights of the original landowners and compensating them - are addressed. How welcome any existing transmigrants will be to stay in Aceh in the future remains to be seen. The position of GAM is unclear: it has made contradictory statements about transmigrants' safety.

(Figures from Transmigration in Indonesia, Ministry of Transmigration and Forest Squatter Resettlement, Jakarta 1998, see also Tapol 2000:13)


The role of the big companies

For years industries operating in Aceh have profited from easy access to cheap land, lax environmental control and suppression of local community opposition to their projects. These 'benefits' of the Suharto era have not yet been discontinued by Wahid's democratically elected government. In Aceh, the security situation meant that industrial sites needed military protection - a requirement that only exacerbated tensions with local communities - and, as has become clear in the case of Exxon-Mobil, led to the company's association with gross human rights violations.

In recent months the security situation for some of these companies has deteriorated and they have been forced to suspend operations. In August, the Indonesian national newspaper Kompas, reported that sawmills in Langsa, East Aceh, the biggest wood processing centre in Aceh, were running out of logs because of the worsening security situation for logging truck drivers. Some trucks had been attacked and burned. The previous month, the Indonesian Forestry Industry Association (MPI) said that no timber concessions in Aceh were functioning because of the dangers to staff.

The local branch of the FSPI union estimated that at least 10,000 workers employed in the timber sector, would be out of work if the mills closed down. Environmental groups were more positive about the prospect of closure, arguing that it was better to close down the timber mills than destroy more of Aceh's forests. In November last year a warning was issued by the commander for the south-western region of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which instructed timber barons and illegal loggers to get out of Aceh. A GAM spokesperson told a local paper that NGOs and environmental defenders should not be afraid to continue their work in Aceh as GAM would "always support other parties in saving Aceh's forests." (Waspada 16/Nov/99) Mining has also been affected by the conflict. In August this year the mining company PT Kutaraja Tembaga Raya announced it was implementing an earlier decision to suspend its copper and gold exploration activities for security reasons. The company is a joint venture between Australia's Phelps Dodge (55%) and Indonesia's PT Timah (45%) and operates under a 6th generation Contract of Work signed in 1997, with a concession area of 562,560 hectares in Aceh Besar, West, North, Central Aceh and Pidie.
(Kompas 29/Aug/00; MinenergyNews.Com 19/Aug/00)


Aceh factbox
Land area: 5,539,000 sq km
Population: between 4.3 and 5 million
Natural resources: oil and gas; gold and other minerals; 
forests, agricultural land; fisheries
Forest area: 4,130,000 ha (ca. 75% of land area)
Mangroves: reduced from 54,335 ha (1982) to 20,000 ha (1993)

PT Arun (Exxon-Mobil/Pertamina) gas plant supplies around 30% of Indonesia's oil and gas exports.

Aceh's oil and agricultural exports contribute 11% of foreign exchange revenues, but only 4.6% of that remains in Aceh.

The impact of war:

Number killed since late 1980s: estimates range from 2,000 - 5,000 and above. Amnesty International estimates that around 2,000 civilians, including women and children, were killed between 1989-1993 alone.

According to S.Tiwon, military operations have had a direct impact on the lives of at least 12,000 to 15,000 Acehnese, including widows, orphans and fatherless children, and women subjected to rape and sexual assault by the military. Refugees: June-August 1999: 250,000 - 300,000 internally displaced people, reduced to only a few hundred by May 2000. Since then numbers have been rising rapidly again.

(Source: Tiwon, 2000; Tapol 2000; Inside Indonesia Oct-Dec 2000 and others)


Tapol's report on Aceh, A reign of Terror. Human rights violations in Aceh 1998-2000, published March 2000 is available from Tapol, 111 Northwood Rd, Thornton Heath, Surrey, CR7 8HW, England. Price: £5.00 incl p&p. An executive summary of the report is available at

Amnesty International papers due out this November - see

    Indonesia: a cycle of violence for Aceh's children (Amnesty Index: ASA 21/59/00)
    Indonesia: the impact of impunity on women in Aceh (Amnesty Index: ASA 21/60/00)
    Indonesia: human rights activists at risk in Aceh (Amnesty Index: ASA 21/61/00)

Some Acehnese NGOs have expressed interest in forming links with international NGOs for campaigning - especially on forests. If you are interested send contact details and areas of interest to DTE and we'll put you in touch.