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Suharto

Suharto (born June 8, 1921) is an Indonesian military strongman and was President of Indonesia from 1967 to 1998.

Suharto has also been referred to as Bemusu, Soeharto, Mohamed Suharto, or Thojib N.J Suharto.

Suharto was born in Kemusu Argamulja[?], central Java, Indonesia. He joined the Dutch colonial forces and studied in the Dutch-run military academy. During World War Two, he became a battalion commander in the Japanese-sponsored local military.

After the Indonesian declaration of Independence by Sukarno in 1945 his troops fought against the Dutch attempt to re-establish colonial rule and seized Yogyakarta from them on March 1, 1949.

During the following years he mainly served as an army officer in Java. In 1959 he was accused of smuggling and transferred to the army staff college in Bandung[?] in west Java. In 1962 he reached the rank of major general and took charge of the Diponegoro division. During the Indonesian Confrontation, Suharto was a commander of Kostrad, a special alert force, and apparently gathering support.

By 1965 Suharto was the army chief of staff when the army split into pro- and anti-communist factions. After an apparent coup attempt by the Indonesian Communist Party[?] on September 28, Suharto lead the countercoup that crushed the communists. By the end of the conflict, he had regained the control of the army. He purged army of pro-Sukarno elements and forced Sukarno to give up all executive powers to him on March 11, 1966. There is a suspicion he received CIA backing in this. The confrontation with Malaysia ended.

Suharto established what he called the Order Baru (New Order). He purged the parliament of communists, crushed labour organizations and even increased press censorship. He also cancelled diplomatic ties with China and re-established those with western countries and the United Nations. He became the final arbiter of all political decisions.

Suharto increased military funding and established two intelligence agencies - the Operational Command for the Restoration of Security and Order (Kopkamtib) and the State Intelligence Coordination Agency (Bakin). Perhaps 2 million people died in the post-coup purges and he had 200,000 arrested on suspicion of being involved with it. Most communists were sentenced to death (although some of the executions were delayed to 1990).

On March 12, 1967 Suharto became the acting president. On March 21 he was formally elected for the first of his five-year terms as a president. He directly appointed 20% of the house of representatives. The Golkar party became the favored party and the only acceptable one for government officials. Indonesia also became one of the founding members of ASEAN.

He also instituted repression against anything Chinese from newspapers and organizations to Chinese pictographs on packing crates because of their alleged communist sympathies.

In 1970 Suharto banned student protests after widespread protests against corruption. A commission found out that corruption was very common. Suharto approved only two cases and then closed the commission. Corruption would become endemic.

He ruled through military control and media censorship[?]. He controlled the finance by giving easy deals and monopolies to his relatives, including his six children.

In 1973 he won another five-year term. The same would happen in 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993 and 1998.

In 1975 he ordered Indonesian troops to invade East Timor after the Fretilin[?] movement seized power there. Later the puppet government installed by Indonesia requested the area be annexed to the country. About 10% of the local population died during the fighting. On July 15, 1976 East Timor became the province of Timor Timur.

Corruption became a significant burden in the 1980s. On May 5, 1980 a group petition of fifty demanded more political freedom. It was composed of former military men, politicians, academics and students. The Indonesian media suppressed the news and the government placed restrictions on the signatories. After the group's 1984 accusation that Suharto was creating a one-party state, some of its leaders were jailed.

Suharto's human rights record also got worse over the years. In 1993 the UN Human Rights Commission[?] made a resolution that expressed deep concern over Indonesian human rights violations in East Timor. US president Clinton backed it.

In 1996 Suharto ousted Sukarno's daughter Megawati Sukarnoputri from the leadership of the Indonesian Democratic Party[?], one of the three legal parties. In June, her supporters occupied the party headquarters. After security forces arrested them, riots broke out in Jakarta.

In 1997, according to the World Bank, 20-30% of Indonesia's development budget had been embezzled over the years. The Asian financial crisis of the same year did not bode well for Suharto's rule when he was forced to apply for loans, which also meant increased IMF scrutiny.

Despite his previous promise to step down, Suharto had himself reinstalled as a president for the seventh time in March 1998. After numerous demonstrations and political and army pressure against him he was forced to resign on May 21. His successor was his deputy Jusuf Habibie[?].

On May 29, 2000 Suharto was placed under house arrest when Indonesian authorities begun to investigate the corruption during his regime. In September court-appointed doctors announced that he could not stand trial because of his declining health. State prosecutors tried again in 2002 but now the doctors blamed an unspecified brain disease. Though unable to prosecute Suharto, the state prosecuted his son Hutomo Mandala Putra, more widely known as Tommy Suharto[?].



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