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Indonesia says student protests infiltrated

Dow Jones New Service - April 7, 1998

Jakarta – A top military commander has accused East Timorese separatists of infiltrating student protests to stir up anti-government sentiment, the official Antara news agency reported Tuesday.

Student protesters have rallied for months to demand economic reform and political change, including the ouster of President Suharto, Asia's longest-serving leader. Indonesia is battling its worst economic downturn in three decades.

Last week, protests at the University of Gadjah Mada in the Java city of Yogyakarta turned violent as police fired tear gas at rock-throwing students. At least 60 students and several security officials were injured.

Maj. Gen. Mardiyanto, the military commander in Central Java province, showed local reporters a videotape of one rally in which some demonstrators waved a flag belonging to an East Timorese rebel group.

Some East Timorese students are enrolled at the university in Yogyakarta, 420 kilometers east of Jakarta.

The rebel group, FRETILIN, has been fighting for independence from Indonesia since it invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it a year later. The United Nations does not recognize Indonesian authority in the half-island territory.

The official Antara news agency quoted Mardiyanto as saying the student protests in Yogyakarta had been contaminated because 'external interests entered the campus.'

At least three Gadjah Mada students have been arrested.