Freedom in the World - Indonesia (2007)
|Publication Date||16 April 2007|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom in the World - Indonesia (2007), 16 April 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/473c55cf1e.html [accessed 22 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Political Rights Score: 2
Civil Liberties Score: 3
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's reform campaign proceeded in fits and starts, with a notable cabinet reshuffle in December 2005 and the passage of a number of reforms as well as the reversal of some gains in the face of considerable public opposition. Despite the appointment of a new, reformist military leader early in 2006, military-business ties and an entrenched tradition of impunity continued to inhibit much-needed military reform. Further progress was made toward securing peace in the northwestern province of Aceh, with the passage of an Aceh governance bill in July 2006 and the successful completion of the province's first elections in December. A former rebel leader was elected governor in the peaceful balloting. Unrest in the eastern province of Papua persisted, however, and the arrival of dozens of Papuan asylum seekers on Australian shores in February complicated Indonesia's relations with that country. The year also saw a worrisome rise in conservative Islamism, including a spate of religious attacks and the passage of illegal Sharia (Islamic law) ordinances in a number of districts. Democracy activists waged a widespread and largely successful campaign to promote the country's secular ideology of Pancasila in response. Staggered, direct elections for regional leaders continued to be held across the country over the year.
Indonesia won full independence in 1949 following a four-year, intermittent war between nationalist rebels and the country's Dutch colonial rulers. After several parliamentary governments collapsed, the republic's first president, Sukarno, assumed authoritarian powers in 1957 under a system he called "Guided Democracy." Sukarno retained his political supremacy by balancing the country's two most powerful groups, the conservative Indonesian National Army (TNI) and the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), against his Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI). This unstable political triad collapsed in 1965, when the army, led by General Suharto, crushed an apparent coup attempt blamed on the PKI. The TNI and its conservative Muslim allies subsequently engaged in mass acts of violence against suspected PKI members that ultimately resulted in an estimated 500,000 deaths. With TNI backing, Suharto eased aside the populist Sukarno and formally became president in 1968.
Having eliminated the PKI, Suharto's "New Order" regime merged "old order" political parties into two easily controlled groups and created Golkar, a progovernment party based on bureaucratic and military interests whose consistent victory was ensured by heavily constrained and manipulated elections held at five-year intervals. During his 32 years in power, Suharto created a political system that rewarded supporters – increasingly, family members – and punished opponents, while embarking on an economic development program that saw the Indonesian economy grow by an annual average of 7 percent for three decades; millions of Indonesians rose from poverty. By the 1990s, Suharto's children and cronies were the major beneficiaries of state privatization schemes and often ran large business monopolies that operated with little oversight. When the Asian financial crisis hit, devaluing the currency by more than 5,000 percent over six months, Suharto agreed to a $43 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout in October 1997. In 1998, the country's economy shrank by 13.8 percent, marking the largest single-year contraction for any country since the Great Depression.
Soaring prices and rising unemployment attributed to the corruption, collusion, and nepotism of the Suharto regime prompted devastating urban riots in May 1998, in the midst of which Suharto resigned. Vice President B.J. Habibie, a longtime Suharto loyalist, succeeded him. He removed legal constraints on the free functioning of the press, labor unions, and political parties in response to the reformasi (reformation) movement.
In June 1999, Indonesia held its first free legislative elections since 1955. The Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), led by Sukarno's daughter, Megawati Sukarnoputri, won 154 of the 462 contested seats. Golkar won 120 seats. In October 1999, the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), consisting of members of the elected House of Representatives (DPR) and 195 appointed members, selected Muslim leader Abdurrahman Wahid as president and Megawati as vice president.
Hopes that the two reformist leaders – representing moderate Islam and Indonesian nationalism, respectively – could tackle Indonesia's deep-seated political, economic, and social problems went unfulfilled. Violence continued unabated in Aceh, the Moluccas, Sulawesi, and Kalimantan; the economy was not revived; and Wahid's administration was dogged by allegations of corruption. Wahid was impeached, and Megawati became president in July 2001.
While Megawati is widely credited with stabilizing Indonesia's post-1997 economy (which only returned to precrisis per capita income levels in 2004), critics claim that corruption rose simultaneously, in part because decentralization expanded local government powers without extending effective oversight. Megawati's administration also faced a significant rise in internal security threats. Security forces arrested scores of suspected members of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) – a transnational network of Southeast Asian Islamic militants loosely linked to al-Qaeda – after terrorist bombings on the resort island of Bali killed 202 people in 2002. Similar hard-line approaches to insurgencies in Aceh and Papua failed to bring peace to those provinces.
Voters punished Megawati in the April 2004 parliamentary elections by shifting support from the PDI-P to the Democratic Party (PD), the electoral vehicle for Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), who had earlier resigned as Megawati's coordinating minister for political and security affairs. Still, the PD holds only 55 out of 550 seats in the DPR. Golkar emerged as the largest but not the majority party, taking 128 seats, with the PDI-P trailing not too far behind with 109 seats. Electoral advances for the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) largely reflected reform-oriented voters' attraction to the party's anticorruption platform. In May 2004, the government lifted a year-old martial-law decree in Aceh, even as the military continued offensives against separatist rebels.
SBY won 61 percent of the vote and claimed a mandate for change in the September 2004 direct presidential election. On taking office in October, he announced a reform agenda focused on curbing corruption, creating jobs, and attracting investment. The fact that Vice President Jusuf Kalla is the chairman of Golkar (the two men ran together in September) has generally helped shore up the administration's parliamentary support.
SBY's administration was quickly confronted with a major disaster when Aceh, an oil-rich, insurgency-plagued province of 4.6 million people on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra, was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami in December 2004. A total of 237,000 Indonesians were counted dead or missing by the Health Ministry as of February 2005; more than half a million were rendered homeless, and property damage was estimated at between $4.5 billion and $5 billion. While inefficiency and press restrictions reminiscent of the earlier regimes plagued the initial government response, cooperation between government troops and separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) insurgents in the tsunami's aftermath ultimately helped to launch ceasefire negotiations. The government and the GAM in August 2005 signed a peace agreement, known as the Helsinki Accord, that has succeeded beyond all expectations, significant challenges notwithstanding.
The GAM formally disarmed in December 2005, and the final withdrawal of police personnel occurred in January 2006, significantly decreasing the military and police presence in the province. The employment and reintegration into Acehnese society of former GAM rebels and the passage of a controversial governance bill proved significant challenges in 2006. Although critics said it included excessive concessions to Acehnese nationalism, the governance bill passed unscathed in July. It contained provisions allowing for independent party candidates (and thus former GAM rebels) to run in the province's gubernatorial elections as well as the continuation of Sharia law in the province, as established during the Megawati period. The December 11, 2006, local elections in Aceh marked a landmark achievement for peace in the province as well as democratization in Indonesia. Against all expectations, GAM's governor/deputy governor team – Irwandi Yusuf and Muhammed Nazar – won overwhelmingly against seven other slates, polling 38.2 percent and carrying 15 of the 19 districts. The elections were peaceful and saw tremendous participation with 86.9 percent of voters registered and a turnout of more than 78 percent. Jakarta's acceptance of a former GAM negotiator as Aceh's governor has been heralded as another significant step toward solidifying resolution of the long-standing conflict.
The government's efforts to secure peace and stability in Papua, on Indonesia's eastern periphery, have proven less successful. A severe famine struck the province in December 2005, requiring emergency food supplies to be flown in. Papuans have traditionally resented Indonesian rule and especially the government's exploitation of the province's natural resources. The separatist movement maintains that the government has not fulfilled its commitment to "special autonomy," granted in 2001. Low-level abuse by TNI forces persists, and a series of demonstrations calling for the closure of a controversial mine and copper company with close TNI ties began in late February 2006 and grew violent by mid-March. The plight of the Papuans received international attention in February when 43 refugees arrived in Australia seeking political asylum and claiming fear of persecution by their home government. The Australian Immigration Department's acceptance of 42 out of the 43 refugees strained bilateral relations.
Low-level conflict between the country's Muslim and Christian populations endures, despite peace agreements in December 2001 in Poso on the island of Sulawesi, and in early 2002 in Ambon in the Moluccas. Periodic attacks have continued to occur, including the beheadings of three Christian schoolgirls in Poso in November 2005. The trial of three suspects began in November 2006, one of whom confessed to planning the attacks to avenge the deaths of Muslims killed during communal violence on Sulawesi that peaked between 1998 and 2000. The trial remained ongoing at year's end. The execution of three Christian militants in September 2006 for attacks against Muslims in Central Sulawesi in 2000 generated yet another spike in ongoing tensions between the two groups. Such localized strife presents the government with a particular challenge, as it motivates and provides outlets for the transnational JI network, whose goals have shifted since 2001 from creating a regional caliphate to establishing an Islamic state in Indonesia. Although the spate of arrests in 2002 set the group back significantly, it showed signs of ongoing recruitment, adaptation, and splintering into cells during 2006, making it more difficult to track down and arrest members. Moreover, the release of numerous militants jailed for planning and executing the Bali bombings in the spring caused some alarm about the possibility of a renewed threat to Indonesian security.
In addition to increasing security measures, the government has for the first time employed the help of the country's moderate Muslim forces in countering radical Islam. The 2006 founding of a new "task force against terrorism" comprised of Muslim scholars, representatives of the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI), and members of the Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's two largest Islamic organizations, marks a significant achievement given the extent to which the U.S.-led "global war on terrorism" has recently tied the hands of Indonesia's moderate Muslims, who are wary of appearing to sympathize with the West. The push for a greater Islamization of Indonesia – supported by the election of Islamist parties in local elections and evidenced by the passing of Sharia-like ordinances in more than 30 districts as well as a proposed, restrictive antipornography bill at the national level – generated a separate, larger debate about Indonesia's secular traditions. The central government, which had ultimate authority over religious issues, was criticized for much of the year for not revoking the ordinances, many of which violated the constitutional rights of women and religious minorities. In an effort to galvanize support for the state's secular character and religious tolerance, democracy activists in June launched what appears to have been a largely successful promotional campaign for the national ideology of Pancasila. October polls found that a clear majority of Indonesians (nearly 80 percent) continued to prefer a secular state to an Islamic one.
Economic reform – including a campaign to ameliorate the country's deeply entrenched corruption and attract foreign investment – has been at the forefront of SBY's agenda and a key determinant of public satisfaction with the government for the last two years. Nearly 40 million people live in poverty in Indonesia, and the economic hardship caused by the 2004 tsunami is still felt by many. In order to remedy the country's large budget deficit, SBY pushed through a cut in fuel subsidies in October 2005 that increased fuel prices by 114 percent; significant protests followed. Inflation soared as a result and remains an issue of concern, particularly as it affects foreign investment. Yet, over 2006 the economy improved, as the rupiah strengthened.
SBY orchestrated a significant cabinet reshuffle in December 2005 that replaced Golkar's Aburizal Bakrie with Finance Minister Boediono as coordinating minister for the economy. Bakrie, whose family owned the country's top conglomerate, was appointed coordinating minister for people's welfare, thus separating him from economic policy. The move also weakened the influence of Golkar, the party most reflective of the "old guard" and resistant to reform. Sri Mulyani Indrawati, a former IMF official, was appointed to the finance ministry. The reshuffle more generally helped strengthen the president's alliances, leaving only the PDI-P in opposition. Plans for another rearrangement including the removal of Bakrie, whose company caused a disastrous mud eruption in East Java in May 2006, are reportedly under way.
Labor law reforms, proposed in May 2006 and designed to improve the country's investment climate, met with significant resistance and generated a series of protests throughout the spring that ultimately led the administration to postpone them; plans to raise electricity tariffs were similarly reversed following public opposition in March. SBY's popularity has waned considerably over his first 18 months as president, primarily because of the October 2005 fuel-price hikes and his perceived failure to reduce unemployment, but also because of this tendency to capitulate on his policies in the face of public protest. Such disillusionment among the public has undermined his support in Parliament and reduced his ability to push through further reforms. Vice President Kalla's September 2006 announcement that he would not seek the presidency in 2009 was clearly a boon for the coalition administration, however, and should help diminish fractious rivalries from erupting in advance of the presidential election.
Despite the announcement in early 2006 of a new three-pronged approach to combating the avian influenza outbreak, bird flu continued to claim human lives during the year, and containment efforts were hampered by the lack of funding for a blanket poultry cull and the decentralized nature of governance in the country. Much-needed military reform continued to face significant setbacks.
Largely as a result of SBY's initiative, Indonesia assumed a more prominent role on the international stage in 2006, garnering significant attention and high expectations as a secular democracy with the world's largest Muslim population. The November 2005 resumption of military ties with the United States reflected the interest of that country and its allies in securing the Indonesian government's antiterrorism cooperation. In September 2006, Indonesia announced that it would contribute roughly 1,000 soldiers to a UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, despite earlier objections from Israel; the last of three troop contingents deployed to the country in late November. In October, Indonesia won a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council reserved for Asian countries, to be held for a two-year term in 2007-2008.
Political Rights and Civil Liberties
Indonesia is an electoral democracy. In 2004, for the first time, Indonesians directly elected their president and all 550 members of the House of Representative (DPR), as well as representatives to a new legislative body, the Regional Representatives Council (DPD). (Before 2004, presidents were elected by the People's Consultative Assembly [MPR], itself comprised of a combination of elected lawmakers and appointed officials. The MPR, currently comprised of elected DPR and DPD members, now performs tasks involving the swearing in and dismissal of presidents and the amendment of the constitution.) The DPD is tasked with proposing, discussing, and monitoring laws related to regional autonomy. Presidents and vice presidents can serve up to two five-year terms. Legislators also serve five-year terms.
Staggered, direct elections for regional leaders across Indonesia began in June 2005 and are scheduled to continue through 2008. While voter turnout (65 to 75 percent) was lower than in the 2004 national elections, the polls were generally considered to be free, fair, and relatively peaceful. A very small number of violent incidents were reported in 2006.
Both new parties – such as the PD and the PKS – and established parties have gained office. As of June 2006, 40 percent of incumbent candidates had been voted out of office since local elections began. Still, some electoral rules favor larger, more established parties and may limit political access. For example, independent candidates cannot contest elections – candidates must be nominated by political parties – and voters choose parties, not candidates, in the voting booth. Parties, in turn, must prove that they have a nationwide network of members and offices before they can make nominations. Parties that fail to win 3 percent of the vote are not allowed to contest future elections. The exception to these rules is in Aceh, where independent candidates can run thanks to a concession made in the Helsinki Accord and codified in the July 2006 governance law. The provision allows for the potential transformation of GAM separatists into viable candidates. December 2006 saw this occur for the first time, when former GAM separatists not only contested the local elections but won overwhelmingly, securing the offices of governor and deputy governor. Although the president will continue to be directly elected, beginning in 2009 the presidential candidate must be nominated by at least 15 percent of the members of the DPR. Similarly, since direct elections for provincial governors and regents began in 2005, candidates have needed 15 percent of the vote in local assemblies to secure a nomination. These nominating requirements tend to perpetuate corrupt practices, with nominations often sold to the highest bidder.
While the military formally withdrew from politics when it lost its 38 appointed seats in the MPR in 2004, the army maintains a "territorial network" of soldiers in every district and village, which gives it influence at the local level.
Corruption remains endemic in Indonesia, including in the judiciary. In 2003, the government created the Corruption Eradication Commission, a group of special prosecutors with the power to investigate any suspected misconduct involving government officials who are believed to have cost the state more than one billion rupiah, approximately $10,500. The government has no formal right to intervene with the work of this body. In 2005, the official Indonesian Corruption Watch, headed by veteran legal aid activist Tenten Madduki Marzduki , indicted several high-ranking electoral officials for graft. Yet even successful convictions of high-profile defendants have produced scandal: two court clerks active in the appeal of a former Aceh governor's 2005 conviction were arrested that year for accepting bribes to aid him. Plans to protect officials from graft investigations, announced in 2006, risk undermining some of the progress that has been made in this area.
SBY has requested that his officials divest their personal business interests upon taking office, yet several high-level officials continue to own some of the country's largest businesses, including Golkar's Aburizal Bakrie, chairman of Bakrie and Brothers, a major Suharto-era conglomerate. The need to maintain good relations with Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Golkar's chairman, limits the extent to which SBY can move to rid his cabinet of corruption. Indonesia was ranked 130 out of 163 countries surveyed in Transparency International's 2006 Corruption Perceptions Index.
The state of press freedom in Indonesia is mixed. The country has a large independent media presence, with roughly 60 radio stations in Jakarta and 10 independent television stations nationwide in addition to the public Televisi Republik Indonesia. Yet strict licensing rules mean that thousands of television and radio stations operate illegally; international press freedom groups are sharply critical of a new set of private broadcasting regulations that went into effect in February 2006, objecting especially to their restraints on access to information. The new regulations prompted the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Indonesia's largest trade union for journalists, to accuse SBY's Department of Communication and Information of reinstating the censorship that existed under Suharto's Department of Information. Moreover, libel laws and political pressure restrict the areas journalists can report on and how they frame their stories. In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, Aceh was closed to members of the foreign media, and government delegations visited local newspapers to express displeasure at their reporting on the situation. The foreign press has been banned from the restive province of Papua since 2003. In September 2006, five Australian journalists were arrested, questioned, and on the point of being expelled from the country for visiting the forbidden province. Defaming the president and vice president is prohibited by law, and criminal defamation charges are often brought against journalists. In a high-profile defamation case in 2006, online editor Teguh Santosa was detained for republishing one of 12 controversial Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, an alleged violation of Article 156 of the Criminal Code on "insult against religion." Santosa's indictment was ultimately ruled unacceptable in September. There are more than 62,000 internet hosts in Indonesia, an estimated 10 million internet users, and no reported government restrictions on access.
Early 2006 saw a considerable rise in religious intolerance, with increasing attacks against members of the Ahmadiyah sect, which many Muslims view as heretical, on Lombok; a wave of attacks against religious minorities, women, and the press by vigilante groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front and the Betawi Brotherhood Forum; and mobs forcibly closing churches in Muslim-majority areas. In an effort to ameliorate the situation, the government issued a Regulation on Building Houses of Worship in March, but the new rules met resistance from all sides, with members of minority faiths fearing it would only make it impossible to build in majority Muslim areas and the MUI arguing that it went too far in accommodating minorities. A draft pornography law, introduced by the PKS, was debated by the DPR for much of the year, pitting the country's moderate majority against the conservative minority. The broader campaign launched by democracy activists against the rise of conservative Islamism, and in particular the adoption of Sharia ordinances in a number of districts, appears to have succeeded in preserving the country's official adherence to secularism. While the president unequivocally defended the preservation of the state's secular Pancasila ideology, the central government has been criticized for not revoking the ordinances or taking sufficient action to curb vigilante aggression, in accordance with its responsibility for upholding religious tolerance. Indonesia officially recognizes five faiths: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Animists, Confucians, Baha'is, and other members of unrecognized religions have difficulty obtaining national identity cards, which are needed to register births, marriages, and divorces. Academic freedom in Indonesia is generally respected.
Indonesia has many effective, outspoken human rights groups, yet they are subject to monitoring and interference by the government. Independence activists in Papua and in the Moluccas, and labor and political activists in Java and Sulawesi, all remain likely targets for human rights abuse. The case of Munir Said Thalib, a prominent rights activist who died of arsenic poisoning in 2004 while on a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam, remains unsolved; in October 2006, the Supreme Court overturned the December 2005 conviction of the only person convicted of his murder, and little has been done by the police or prosecutors to follow up the investigation. Although the government generally respects freedom of assembly, the authorities have restricted this right in conflict areas. An alliance of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Aceh protested what they felt were key failures of the governance bill passed in July.
Indonesian workers can join independent unions, bargain collectively, and, except for civil servants, stage strikes. Workers do have strong legal protection, to the degree that this became a push for reform by business groups in 2006 to promote investment. Government enforcement of minimum-wage and other labor laws is weak, however, and there are credible reports of employers dismissing or otherwise exacting retribution from union organizers. Moreover, unions allege that factory managers at times use youth gangs or plainclothes security forces – often off-duty soldiers and police – to intimidate workers or break strikes. Roughly 10 to 15 percent of Indonesia's 80 million industrial workers are unionized. The country's trade unions in 2006 staged a series of protests that eventually forced SBY to reverse his labor law reforms. According to the International Labor Organization, there are nearly 700,000 child domestic workers in Indonesia.
SBY has made legal reform a key objective of his new government and has appointed well-known reformers to the positions of attorney general and chief justice of the Supreme Court. In January 2006, he endorsed the Judicial Commission's reevaluation of all 49 Supreme Court justices, as the Supreme Court has been the slowest of the country's judicial institutions to reform. The system is so mired in corruption that justice typically is awarded to the highest bidder. Bribes often influence prosecution, conviction, and sentencing in civil and criminal cases, and court outcomes are subject to influence by military personnel and government officials. Courts often limit defendants' access to counsel and allow forced confessions in criminal cases. Low salaries for judicial officials and the lack of punishment for illegal activity perpetuate the problem.
The Constitutional Court has established an early record for independent rulings that take due consideration of legal principles. When SBY took the economically necessary, but broadly unpopular, step of doubling gasoline prices in 2005, the court ruled that the move to impeach the president on the basis of that policy had no legal standing. The court also ruled in the fall of 2006, however, to strip the Judicial Commission of its oversight powers, which will inevitably stall efforts to curb graft in the courts.
Judicial weakness perpetuates abuse on the part of security forces, who regularly go unpunished for a range of human rights violations. These range from ongoing low-level abuse in conflict zones like Papua, where the TNI recently increased its presence, to torture of criminal suspects, peaceful political activists, and Indonesians involved in land and other disputes with authorities. Senior military officers are not held accountable for human rights violations anywhere in the archipelago.
Ending the culture of impunity in the military is crucial to the country's democratic consolidation and move away from the repression of Suharto's New Order era. Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono, a respected civilian who held the same post during the Wahid administration, has moved to ensure civilian control of the military by folding the TNI into the civilian-led Ministry of Defense, but only military personnel have since been deemed qualified to take up positions in the ministry. The appointment of air force Marshal Djoko Suyanto as the new military leader in January 2006 was a also a positive sign, since the air force is the military branch with the least allegiance to the "old guard." Military reform has faced considerable setbacks over the year, however, primarily because of the colossal problem of military funding. The plan for the TNI to comply with a 2004 law by selling off its extensive business interests by 2009 has been significantly scaled back, with Sudarsono maintaining that the country's insufficient defense spending – with the TNI receiving only 30 percent of its funding from the state budget – necessitates private financing for arms and equipment. The need to uphold its business interests perpetuates the military's use of violence and intimidation. Human rights groups worry that the restoration of military ties with the United States in November 2005 and Yudhoyono's encouragement of more active military involvement in counterterrorism contradicts recent reforms that exclusively entrust the police with domestic security, thus blurring the line between the two mandates and potentially opening the door to military repression of political dissent.
Sudarsono has also recently led the fight against trying TNI soldiers in civilian courts. Efforts to curb military impunity were dealt a setback by the acquittals or relatively short jail terms handed down in cases related to the 1999 violence in East Timor that killed more than 1,000 civilians. In a series of trials that ended in August 2004, a Jakarta court acquitted 12 defendants and handed down jail terms of between 3 and 10 years to the six found guilty. That trial process was largely judged a failure. In response to moves in the international community to establish a war crimes tribunal, Indonesia and East Timor formed a Commission on Truth and Friendship, which met for the first time in August 2005, but does not have prosecutorial powers. The Human Rights Court for Aceh, proposed along with the governance bill, similarly lacks the authority to try human rights abuses committed prior to the signing of the 2005 Helsinki Accord, including routine torture and intimidation by the TNI as documented by Human Rights Watch since 2003.
Ethnic Chinese continue to face some harassment and violence, though far less than in the late 1990s, when attacks killed hundreds and destroyed many Chinese-owned shops and churches. Unlike other Indonesians, ethnic Chinese must show a citizenship card to obtain a passport, credit card, or business license, or to enroll a child in school – a requirement that makes them vulnerable to extortion by bureaucrats. Ethnic Chinese make up less than 3 percent of the nation's population, but are resented by some Indonesians for reputedly holding the lion's share of private wealth. A few ethnic Chinese have amassed huge fortunes in business, though most are ordinary traders or merchants.
Ethnic Dayaks in Kalimantan and members of Indonesia's other minority groups face considerable discrimination. The government at times fails to stop mining and logging companies, which often act in collusion with local military and police, from encroaching on communal land in Kalimantan and other areas. That state also appropriates land claimed by indigenous Indonesians for development projects without fair compensation. A major September 2006 Human Rights Watch report documented the forced eviction of tens of thousands of urban poor in Jakarta, where local police and the military have used excessive force, including gunfire, at the behest of local government authorities. In Kalimantan and other areas, many disputes between ethnic groups are said to be linked to the government's decades-old policy of resettling tens of thousands of Indonesians to remote parts of the archipelago from overcrowded areas such as Java.
Indonesian women face considerable discrimination. They are often steered by factory employers into low-level, low-paying jobs, and female university graduates reportedly receive salaries that are 25 percent lower, on average, than those paid to their male counterparts. Female household servants at times are forced to work without pay, for extremely low wages, or in situations of debt bondage. Female genital mutilation is reportedly still practiced in some areas, although the more extreme forms apparently are becoming less common. Trafficking of women for prostitution, forced labor, and debt bondage reportedly continues unabated, often with the complicity or involvement of police, soldiers, and officials, despite the passage of a child-trafficking bill and stiffer provisions against trafficking of women. Abortion is illegal in Indonesia, except to save a woman's life. The recent passage of Sharia-like ordinances in a number of districts went a long way to further infringe upon women's constitutional rights. Women who protested the laws in Tangerang were attacked by members of religious vigilante groups.