Separatism and Ethnic Conflicts in Indonesia: Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (Gam)

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Separatism and Ethnic Conflicts in Indonesia: Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM) A Commentary

The report on Separatism and Ethnic Conflicts in Indonesia presented by Ms. Paguibitan in the class is well commendable. She has exhibited a good grasp of her topic during her report presentation and the report itself is very informative. But before I discuss and comment on the details of her report, let me first talk about the general topic, separatism and ethnic conflicts.

At a first glance, it is tempting to view separatism and ethnic conflicts as domestic problems for we easily see that the key players are the local actors, primarily the local group staging the armed resistance and the government trying to preserve the territorial integrity of the state. However, in reality, these problems do have an international character. First, as correctly mentioned in the discussion of the Aceh experience, separatism and ethnic conflicts are felt across borders especially when the secessionist groups find a safe haven in adjacent territories where the government are particularly supportive of the cause of these groups. Most notable examples of such in the Southeast Asian region are the cross-border conflicts between Indonesia and Malaysia, Thailand and Malaysia, and the Philippines and Malaysia, among others. Several things are common in these cases: the separatist groups staging the secession are primarily Muslims; and the secessions happen in areas where the country shares border with Malaysia. These root problems are so costly that they caused diplomatic protests between these states in various degrees. Second, separatism and ethnic conflicts are characterized by violence and killings and they have been a primary concern by different international organizations, principally the United Nations and the various international actors advocating for the protection of human rights.

At some point in the report, this international character of separatism and ethnic conflicts in...
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