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Communists blamed for Indonesian riots, army told to shoot

Associated Press - June 17, 1997

Jakarta – Officials say communists were to blame for recent riots in East Java, and troops have been ordered to shoot troublemakers on sight, the official Antara news agency said today.

East Java Gov. Basofi Soedirman was quoted by Antara as saying that the role of the long-banned communists in the turmoil was obvious because rioters had burned a temple, a church, mosques and a copy of the Koran.

"To a senior person like me, the recent rioting greatly resembled that attempted by the Indonesian Communist Party," he told a meeting of religions leaders and the military on Monday.

The government banned the party in 1966 following an abortive communist coup attempt in 1965. Since then, the government has often blamed the now-underground group for any unrest.

Maj. Gen. Imam Utomo, the military commander of East Java, said "there is no other way left but to disperse rioters by force, if necessary by shooting them on sight." He said the rioters want to create disorder.

But some activists have said they were protesting alleged vote-rigging in the May 29 legislative election, which gave the ruling Golkar party a landslide victory.

On Saturday, mobs burned a church, a Buddhist temple, a cinema, three shops and several government vehicles in the Madura island town of Bangkalan in East Java, 400 miles east of Jakarta. Police said 26 people were arrested.

On Sunday, fighting erupted between residents of two villages in Pasuruan, a regency in East Java. Several fishermen were injured by homemade bombs.

Election protests erupted Friday in the East Java town of Sampang and earlier in the month in another East Java town, Jember.