Jakarta - Peace prospects in Aceh may have brightened in recent weeks and there’s even talk that a peace agreement may be sealed during the next round of talks inFinland in July. But the shooting of a foreign aid worker in the province offers a grim reminder as to how volatile the situation on the ground remains.
Both the military and the Acehnese rebels have blamed each other for the shooting of Ms Eva Yeung, an aid worker from Hong Kong. She was hit by a bullet while travelling to Lamno, 55km south of Banda Aceh, in a marked International Committee for the Red Cross vehicle on June 22. Ms Yeung is now recovering in aSingapore hospital.
Following the shooting, the Indonesian police urged foreign aid workers in Aceh to secure a police escort while travelling in areas where Aceh rebels are known to operate.
"It is important that foreigners ask for a security escort," National Police Chief Gen Da'i Bachtiar said. "Maybe many foreigners feel they are safe, but GAM (rebels) could launch an attack any place, any time," he said referring to the local acronym of the Free Aceh Movement rebel group. GAM has been fighting for the independence of the oil-rich province for the past three decades.
A military spokesman, Colonel Ahmad Yani, said the authorities have stepped up security in Aceh. Indonesian soldiers are constantly patrolling the province to maintain security of both locals and foreigners who are in Aceh for humanitarian work.
"We are all aware and do not deny that the separatists are constantly trying to wait for any opportunity to launch a strike," he added.
* Aid workers told to get escorts (The Jakarta Post, June 25)
* TNI secures all people, including foreigners in Aceh (Antara, June 24)