Banda Aceh – They are unarmed and there are only 200 of them. Yet, the peace monitors from the European Union and five Asean countries may well determine whether peace in war-torn Aceh is for real this time. The Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) will supervise key aspects of the Aug 15 peace accord, from demobilising the rebels to destroying weapons and supervising the withdrawal of government troops.
With both the Aceh rebels and the Indonesian government still eyeing each other suspiciously, the unarmed AMM personnel will be playing a key role in helping members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) to reintegrate into Indonesian society. The AMM team, which will spend up to a year in Aceh, is due to start work on Sept 15 when the rebels are expected to turn in their arms at 12 centres and receive help in adjusting to their new lives.
GAM spokesman Sofyan Dawood said on Aug 18: "The AMM should be responsible for our safety once we put down our weapons. They must draw up the rules for dealing with GAM members who receive a pardon (from the Indonesian government)."
Previous peace agreements in Aceh had collapsed within a very short period of time. The last agreement in 2003 unraveled just five months after it was signed, with both GAM and the government blaming each other for violations of the agreement.
But Dutch diplomat Pieter Feith, who arrived in Aceh last week with a team of 80 AMM officials to do the groundwork, was optimistic that the peace accord could work this time.
Mr Feith said he had been giving "greater authority" to make binding decisions, such as overseeing the amnesty arrangement for GAM rebels, which forms a crucial part of the peace pact.
"If there is no willingness to abide by my decisions, I will report to the highest levels of authority in the government and in the GAM political leadership as well as the European Union and the Asean contributing states,” Mr Feith said.
The Aug 15 accord calls for the GAM to disband its 3,000 rebels, who have to surrender their arms by December. In return, each combatant will receive 2 hectares of land and start-up supplies to become a farmer or fisherman in the province. Rebels and political prisoners will be granted amnesty by the end of this month.
For its part, the Indonesian government has agreed to cut the number of troops by half to 14,700 by December and to reduce the police force to 9,100 by the end of the year. On Aug 22, the Indonesian military (TNI) began to pull out its troops from Aceh, with the departure of some 1,300 military personnel from the elite Army Reserve Command (KOSTRAD) .
* Indonesian government starts pulling out troops from Aceh (Bernama, Aug 22)
* Aceh peace hinges on 200 monitors (The Straits Times, Aug 20)
* GAM urges monitors to protect rebels (The Jakarta Post, Aug 19)