Associated Press

Indonesia Military Businesses Hurting Reforms: Group

JAKARTA (AP)--The Indonesian military's involvement in business undermines efforts to reform the institution and perpetuates its reputation of being abusive, corrupt and above the law, an international rights group said Wednesday.

"The military's moneymaking creates an obvious conflict of interest with its proper role," said Lisa Misol, the lead researcher and author of a 136-page report by New-York based Human Rights Watch.

"Instead of protecting Indonesians, troops are using violence and intimidation to further their business interests."

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has vowed to reform the military, which helped prop up former dictator Suharto's brutal 32-year rule, and to place it under civilian control.

But the military continues to raise money outside the government budget through a wide network of legal and allegedly illegal businesses, Human Rights Watch said, pointing to security provided to U.S. gold mining giant Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (FCX).

Money is also earned through corruption, racketeering and - in the military's quest for natural resources - by forcefully pushing people off their land, said Brad Adams, the group's Asia director.

"So long as there is a profit motive for the military, so long as soldiers wake up in the morning thinking their job is to make money instead of participating in national defense, these kinds of abuses will continue," he said at a press conference.

The Ministry of Defense, which has said its official budget is sufficient to meet only about half of its needs, acknowledged Wednesday that a problem exists but said monetary constraints were largely to blame.

"I agree with the content of this report," said Maj. Gen. Dadi Sutanto, a senior ministry official, as he flipped through "Too High a Price: The Human Rights Cost of the Indonesian Military's Economic Activities."

"We have to find the best way to get rid of military business and to overcome the obstacles of reform," he said, noting that a 2004 law requires all business activity to be handed over to the government within three years.

Human Rights Watch said that while it recognizes the government's budgetary constraints "moonlighting is not the answer. It's the government's responsibility to finance the military."

"This is a serious problem that's been allowed to fester too long," said Misol, calling on the government to reform the budget process and to hold military personnel accountable for crimes.

"The citizens of Indonesia have paid a price in their own blood and their own suffering and the soldiers have paid a price in that their reputation has been marred by these activities."
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