Monday, March 26, 2007

Amazing Peace: From Conflict to Compromise in War-torn Aceh, Indonesia

This seminar will focus on the dynamics inside the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). It also includes first-hand research in Aceh including interviews with former GAM leaders and combatants.

From 1976 to 2005 an intermittent but bloody guerilla insurgency raged in the Indonesian province of Aceh. Just a few years ago the conflict seemed intractable, with no end in sight. The two sides had irreconcilable nationalist visions and both appeared committed to violent solutions. However, in August 2005, following the devastating December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, they signed a "Helsinki Agreement," committing themselves to a peaceful resolution. This breakthrough was possible, above all, because the chief secessionist organization, the Free Aceh Movement (GAM, Gerakan Aceh Merdeka) agreed to a compromise settlement by which it accepted Aceh's "self-government" within Indonesia.

How could an organization so intransigently committed to an ethno-nationalist vision of Acehnese independence, and for so long, have suddenly re-imagined Aceh as being compatible with Indonesia? Also surprisingly, the peace process has continued since 2005 with very few serious violations. (A former GAM leader, Irwandi Yusuf, was elected as the new governor of the province in December 2006.) In explaining these unexpected events, Aspinall will focus on the dynamics inside GAM. For evidence and illustration, he will draw on first-hand research in Aceh including interviews with former GAM leaders and combatants.

Edward Aspinall is writing a book on the Aceh conflict. Relevant publications include Opposing Suharto: Compromise, Resistance and Regime Change in Indonesia (2005); The Peace Process in Aceh: Why it Failed (2003), coauthored with Harold Crouch; and "Sovereignty, the Successor State and Universal Human Rights: History and the International Structuring of Acehnese Nationalism," Indonesia (April 2002). Before joining ANU, he taught Southeast Asian and Indonesia studies at the University of Sydney (2003-2005) and the University of New South Wales (1997-2001). Aspinall has a Ph.D from ANU and BA degrees from the Universities of Adelaide and Sydney.

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