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Update No. 98/01 on ICRC activities in Indonesia

20-05-1998 Operational Update No 98/01

 ICRC posed for action  

The spotlight of the international media is currently focused on Indonesia, the scene of mass demonstrations and riots which recently claimed the lives of 500 civilians. The prices of essential goods are rocketing skywards, thereby increasing the likelihood of further protests. Although the government is trying to take steps to restore a minimum of international confidence and secure national assets, the situation in Indonesia remains volatile.

Since the violence erupted in the country, initially within the campus of several universities, then in the streets of all major cities in the provinces of Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi, the ICRC has kept close and regular contact with the Indonesian Red Cross Society (PMI) and the representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies based in Jakarta. On 16 May a coordination meeting was held at the PMI headquarters between the components of the Movement to discuss possible future activities. Last week the ICRC put a tonne of medicines and medical material from Geneva at the PMI's disposal. Further orders for additional supplies have been placed in Singapore.

ICRC assistance has been offered to several universities and, since 15 May, daily contact is maintained between the ICRC and the medical staff present in Trisakti University.

The ICRC continues its representations to the Indonesian authorities in order to gain access to all security detainees throughout the country. Delegates have visited several people arrested in connection with the student demonstrations. However, furt her visits had to be suspended owing to the prevailing violence. The delegation is nonetheless doing its utmost to resume visits and an additional protection delegate should arrive within the next few days. 

 Indonesian Red Cross evacuates wounded  

Following the eruption of violence at the universities of Trisakti and Jogyakarta, the PMI's medical personnel and ambulances were used to evacuate wounded students to hospital. They also managed to bring assistance to hundreds of people trapped and burned during the looting of several supermarkets.

The National Society's 26 ambulances, 40 trained volunteers, 100 first-aiders and ten instructors are ready for action, should the situation worsen. The PMI's requirements for equipment - five radio handsets, five stretchers, identification tabards, 16 oxygen tubes and adequate first-aid material - are being met by the ICRC's stocks in Indonesia.

 ICRC set-up in Indonesia  

The regional delegation in Jakarta - which covers ICRC activities in Indonesia (Aceh and Irian Jaya, as well as East Timor), Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore - has 17 delegates: one in Aceh, five in East Timor, four in Irian Jaya and seven based in Jakarta.

The ICRC has been active in Indonesia since the attempted coup in 1965, following which it visited some 40,000 detainees between 1974 and 1978. Its presence in East Timor dates back to 1974. The ICRC still maintains an office in Dili, acting as a neutral intermediary between the civilian population and the Indonesian authorities. The main thrust of the regional delegation's activities remains its protection work in Indonesia and East Timor; its health programme in East Timor and the medical and relief operation in Irian Jaya, both carried out in cooperation with the PMI; and the promotion of international humanitarian law throughout the region.