Ron Moreau

Stories by Ron Moreau

  • Ring In The Old

    Indonesia's most famous housewife suddenly has a much bigger house. After nearly two years as a silent and often sidelined vice president--and six months of quietly backing her former boss Abdurrahman Wahid into a corner--Megawati Sukarnoputri now has the keys to the palace where she grew up. She has the presidency she thought was rightfully hers when her party won the most votes in 1999 elections. She has the good will of the international community, many, if not most, of her citizens and a large swath of the political establishment. "The popular mood is that this is a new chance for Indonesia--let's help her out," says legislator Sabam Siagian.She will need all the help she can get. Not only does Megawati confront the same mountain of challenges that defied the erratic Wahid--a basket-case economy, corrupt and debt-ridden companies and banks, a ballooning budget deficit, ethnic tensions, separatist violence and general lawlessness. But in order to get anything done, she must rely...
  • After The Ouster

    Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid predicted a national calamity if the country's supreme political body, the People's Consultative Assembly, or MPR, removed him from office on allegations of corruption and incompetence. His hotheaded supporters would pour into the streets, he warned, and several provinces immediately would declare independence. He was dead wrong.On Monday, as Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri took the presidential oath of office with a Koran held over her head, Jakarta and the entire nation were quiet. Aside from several church bombings which may or may not have had a political motive, there were no significant demonstrations protesting Wahid's constitutional ouster. No province threatened to break away, and most Indonesians simply seemed relieved that the nearly-blind Muslim scholar's 21 tumultuous months in office were finally over. "The popular mood is that this is a new chance for Indonesia," says MPR member Sabam Siagian. "Let's help her out."Megawati...
  • Transplanted Trouble

    Hill 1200 is a long way from Afghanistan. But the view from the Thai military outpost, which sits along the Burmese border, is awfully familiar. Until the Taliban banned its cultivation last year, the fields of arid Afghanistan were filled with opium poppy--75 percent of the world's supply. The elimination of this year's crop has naturally driven up prices for opium paste and its derivative, heroin, across the world. Down here along the Thai-Burma border, where ethnic Wa militias have been churning out ya ba ("crazy drug"), or methamphetamine, pills for the Thai market, the locals are rushing to fill the gap.From Hill 1200, Thai soldiers keep an eye on a ramshackle collection of green-roofed buildings that goes by the name of Muang Yawn Mai; they say the hills around the hamlet are carpeted in new poppy plants. "These people used to grow opium before," Lt. Gen. Wattanachai Chaimuanwong, the straight-talking commander of Thailand's Third Army, says of the Wa, who have moved to Muang...
  • A Mother's Search

    As Pham Kim Hy displays the carefully preserved keepsakes-baby clothes, booties, a red Ho Chi Minh Youth neckerchief, high-school notebooks-that belonged to her son, Ho Viet Dung, her eyes well with tears.She pulls out a family photo album filled with faded snapshots of the handsome young man. In one image, he is with his high-school sweetheart; in another, he strums a guitar. A photograph from July 1970, taken just before the 18-year-old Dung headed south to the front along the Ho Chi Minh trail, shows him dressed in his North Vietnamese uniform, smiling and confident. Finally his mother unfolds a worn letter, dated March 1972. "My dear beloved family. We are ready to go to battle," Dung wrote from Dak To in South Vietnam's Central Highlands. "But please don't worry for me. Spring is here."After the letter, Hy, who is now 72, never heard from her son again. She only knew that the battle for Dak To had been a particularly bloody one. For the next three years, she held on to the hope...
  • North Korea: A Portrait Of True Grit

    Park Choong Il is lucky to be alive, but is prepared to die. He keeps a small plastic bag filled with rat poison in his pocket. "I would rather kill myself than be taken back to prison in North Korea," says the 23-year-old former street urchin, who recently escaped from Kim Jong Il's dictatorship for the second time in 18 months. "I don't even like to remember what happened to me. It's too painful to think about."Park is one of thousands of desperate North Koreans who've escaped from that impoverished country in recent years. Nearly all flee into China, and many are quickly arrested by Chinese police and, like Park, forcibly returned to the communist regime, where they are punished by internment in Pyongyang's brutal prison system. Frail and boyish-looking, Park is suffering from memory lapses as a result of the mistreatment he claims to have suffered during his eight-month ordeal. Thinking he was dying, North Korean officials released him from prison last August and allowed him to...
  • North Korea: A Portrait Of True Grit

    Park Choong Il is lucky to be alive, but is prepared to die. He keeps a small plastic bag filled with rat poison in his pocket. "I would rather kill myself than be taken back to prison in North Korea," says the 23-year-old former street urchin, who recently escaped from Kim Jong Il's dictatorship for the second time in 18 months. "I don't even like to remember what happened to me. It's too painful to think about."Park is one of thousands of desperate North Koreans who've escaped from that impoverished country in recent years. Nearly all flee into China, and many are quickly arrested by Chinese police and, like Park, forcibly returned to the communist regime, where they are punished by internment in Pyongyang's brutal prison system. Frail and boyish-looking, Park is suffering from memory lapses as a result of the mistreatment he claims to have suffered during his eight-month ordeal. Thinking he was dying, North Korean officials released him from prison last August and allowed him to...
  • A Military Comeback

    Indonesian Army Gen. Endriartono Sutarto seems at his best in tight spots. In 1998, just before the fall of President Suharto, Lt. Gen. Prabowo Subianto, the former dictator's powerful son-in-law, demanded that Sutarto swear an oath of loyalty to defend the beleaguered president. Sutarto refused, saying a soldier's allegiance is to the country, not to any individual. The general's mettle was tested again this year by President Abdurrahman Wahid, who's fighting for his political life. At least three times since January, Wahid has asked Sutarto, now the Army's chief of staff, to support a state-of-emergency decree, the first step in the president's effort to "freeze" and ultimately disband a hostile Parliament. By doing so the president was in effect offering Sutarto--and the Indonesian military--a chance to regain much of the power the armed forces had lost when Suharto resigned three years ago.Once again Sutarto, 54, refused. The stocky, U.S.-trained military leader is no fool: he...
  • Indonesia: The Next Threat To Peace

    Thousands of frenzied followers of Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid massed outside Parliament in Jakarta last week. They vowed to attack the building and fight to the death to defend the embattled president. But the angry protesters made little impression on the 500 lawmakers gathered inside. For the third time, they voted overwhelmingly to censure the president--and more important, to push ahead with his impeachment on charges of incompetence. For Wahid, it may be a final blow. The legislators mandated that a special meeting of the People's Consultative Assembly (or MPR, the country's supreme political body) be held on Aug. 1. The MPR has the power to boot Wahid from office, and experts say it will almost certainly do so. "He's finished," says Jusuf Wanandi, head of the Jakarta-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. Adds a Western diplomat in Jakarta: "He's gone. It's hard to conceive of any survival scenario for him."Wahid dug his own grave. He never took the...
  • Indonesia: 'He's Finished'

    As thousands of militant supporters of Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid rallied outside parliament today in Jakarta, vowing to attack the building and stop the session inside, lawmakers didn't flinch. They voted overwhelmingly to call a special meeting of the country's supreme political body, the People's Consultative Assembly, or MPR, that has the power to-and probably will-remove him from office perhaps as early as August. ...
  • Mega's Moment

    It's easy to underestimate Megawati Sukarnoputri. Don't. Her lifelong family friend Abdurrahman Wahid has repeatedly fallen into that trap during his 18 months as Indonesia's president. He and his advisers misinterpreted the vice president's tactful silences as a sign of her unquestioning support. Wahid would brag about her blind loyalty, adding that she wasn't smart enough to take his place. He publicly called her "stupid" at least once. And of all the president's many errors, his persistent misjudgment of Megawati is the one that will likely cost him his job--or at least most of his powers. Close friends say she is tired of the snide remarks and rude treatment. More than that, though, she is convinced that the man she has always addressed as "brother" can no longer be trusted to run the country. ...
  • The Fruits Of War

    Soldiers dressed in combat fatigues and black hoods would normally inspire fear in an Acehnese village. But not these commandos. As nearly a dozen fighters approach the edges of a hamlet some 30km southwest of the town of Bireun, their hoods are revealed to be jilbab--the Muslim head scarves worn by women. They display gold costume jewelry and very real AK-47s. They wear both red lipstick and red shoulder patches that say live together, die together in Acehnese. They are a reconnaissance force from the all-female Cut Nyak Dhien unit of Aceh's militant Free Aceh Movement (known by its Indonesian acronym, GAM), and they are not just playing soldier. "I have no fear of fighting or dying," says a preternaturally cool 21-year-old named Rosmiati. "All that matters is our freedom." ...
  • The Scare Spreads East

    The last thing Dr. Somwang meant to do was start a panic. For weeks, rumors had circulated that mad-cow disease had struck its first human victims in Thailand. Western experts had already warned the country to be on the lookout: Thai farmers imported European animal feed at a time when the British mad-cow crisis was peaking in the mid-1990s. So late last month Somwang, a respected research scientist, called a press conference to explain the confusion. Two patients in a Bangkok hospital were suffering from a brain illness "similar" (but unrelated) to mad cow, he explained. Unfortunately, whoever typed his press release dropped the "similar," leaving the impression that mad cow had indeed struck. "I'm so sorry," Somwang said days later. "We didn't mean to do any damage."It was too late. Even the animal form of the scourge, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), has not yet surfaced in Asia. But the fear has. Consumers are avoiding beef. Government regulators are besieged with worried...
  • A GLOBAL GAP

    For all his adult life, Van Thavi, 33, and his neighbors in the remote Cambodian village of Robib had been cut off from civilization, courtesy of Pol Pot's ruthless army. Soldiers would hide in long-abandoned rubber plantations along the only route to town and ambush passersby, or lay mines on the deeply potholed road and its rickety bridges. By the time the Khmer Rouge was driven from the area in the spring of 1998, the villagers had become habituated to their isolation.So it was all the more shocking when, one sunny day last year, a military helicopter descended from the sky and disgorged Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and technology guru Nicholas Negroponte and American philanthropist Bernard Krisher. They had come to announce that something called the Internet had arrived at last in the village. "You probably will not understand what I am telling you today," said Krisher over a squeaking public-address system, "but in six months you will." The assembled crowd of...
  • Indonesia V. Suharto

    During his 32-year autocracy, Indonesian President Suharto had a knack for keeping people in doubt about his plans. He was a man of few words. He rarely said "yes" or "no." Rather, he would convey decisions by body language--a grunt, a nod of the head or stony silence--which his top aides would then interpret to the public. Two years ago the former dictator was forced to resign to avert political and economic chaos. But Suharto still manages to keep his fractious nation in suspense, despite the fact that he's now 79 years old, deeply unpopular and in poor health. Last week nearly everyone wondered if he would appear at the first day of his corruption trial. He did not. When the trial opened in an Agriculture Ministry auditorium in Jakarta, the presiding judge asked, "Is the defendant in the courtroom?" The state's chief prosecutor replied: "No, your honor." Suharto had stayed home in defiance of the law. "He's still the old Suharto," says Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, who...
  • Peace Unrequited

    Maria de Fatima Ximenes Diaz is not easily defeated. A year ago Indonesian soldiers and East Timorese militiamen burned her home and destroyed her clinic in an orgy of killing, looting and arson. She camped out under a tree on the waterfront of the East Timorese capital of Dili--one of the hundreds of thousands of East Timorese who had been driven from their homes following East Timor's vote for independence from Indonesia. Today the 12-bed clinic where Ximenes used to secretly treat wounded pro-independence guerrillas has been repaired. A dozen Kenyan soldiers, who are part of the United Nations' 8,000-man Peacekeeping Force, are installing a new roof, doors and windows on a nearby house in order to turn it into a surgical theater. Dozens of patients wait on plastic chairs in the clinic's dirt yard to see a doctor. "It's a miracle," enthuses Ximenes. "We had courage to resist the Indonesians, and now we have the courage to rebuild."But the demons are still haunting East Timor. For...
  • An Island Holy War

    The headquarters for the Islamic Protection Front (FPI) seems more like a Club Med resort than a command center for anti-Christian warriors on the Moluccan Islands. Abu Bakar Wahid, the FPI's leader, works in a tin-roofed office on sleepy Tidore Island--one of hundreds that comprise the Moluccan chain, which stretches across a wide swath of sea in eastern Indonesia. The building sits on a palm-lined beach at the base of the verdant Kiematubu Volcano. From there the 49-year-old Islamic cleric has a commanding view of the nearby island of Halmahera, several kilometers away. Halmahera has become a key battleground in the Moluccas' bloody, 18-month-old feud. For Abu Bakar, the fight is nothing short of a holy war; in recent months he's been tirelessly training young volunteer warriors for the jihad. "I send men wherever they are needed to fight," says the FPI leader, who wears a checked sarong and traditional high-collar shirt. "Just as our Indonesian independence fighters with their...
  • Foiling The Brotherhood

    Usually, the loudest noises in the jungles of northern Malaysia are the screeches of wild monkeys and the whine of the occasional buzz saw. But for five tense days last week, the jungle became a battleground. Gunfire and loud explosions shattered the silence. More than 2,000 heavily armed soldiers surrounded a group of 27 Islamic cultists who had taken four hostages, stolen a large cache of arms and were holed up on a hilltop near the little town of Sauk. The gunmen were members of an obscure group called the Brotherhood of Inner Power, which aims to set up an Islamic state. Shouting over bullhorns, their wives begged them to surrender. When the soldiers fired on their positions, the rebels taunted them by blasting pop songs on a cassette player. At midnight the rebels would start chanting Qur'anic verses. Finally, the government's unarmed field commander entered the rebels' camp to persuade the leader, Mohd Amin Mohd Razali, to give up. When Amin tried to shoot him, the commander...
  • Is Gus Dur Out Of Touch?

    Masseurs don't normally get involved in the financial affairs of state, but then most countries are not run like Indonesia. In early January a man named Suwondo, who worked as both a masseur and a business partner for Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, went on an unusual errand. As described in embezzlement charges filed by Indonesian prosecutors, he paid a visit to Bulog, Indonesia's state-run food-distribution agency. Many Indonesians now believe that Bulog was a favorite cash cow for the corrupt in the government of former president Suharto. His cronies would regularly, it is now thought, siphon money from the agency for personal needs. Suwondo (like many Indonesians he has only one name) wanted to do much the same, apparently. Prosecutors charge that, acting on what he said was Wahid's behalf, Suwondo requested $12 million in cash from a senior Bulog official. The official, named Sapuan, refused the request, saying he needed written authorization from the president. On Jan....
  • South Korea's Vietnam

    April 1, 1967, should have been a forgettable day for Nguyen Van Thoi. He'd trudged off, as he did most mornings, to work in the rice fields near his village of Vinh Xuan in South Vietnam. True, he had more than the usual war worries to think about: South Korean soldiers, in Vietnam to help the United States fight the communists, had recently conducted sweeps through nearby villages. The Koreans had forced the neighboring farmers at gunpoint to move into special enclaves, enclosed by barbed wire, euphemistically called New Life Villages. The Korean strategy was to put the locals out of the reach of the Viet Cong. But for poor peasants like Thoi, the promise of a "New Life" was a lie. He didn't want to become an internal refugee. He wanted to stay home.Suddenly, Thoi heard the long, loud tat-tat-tat of automatic-weapons fire and the distant thud of exploding grenades. He lay low in the fields for hours, finally returning to Vinh Xuan around 5 p.m. Sprawled in great pools of blood in...
  • Digging For Trouble

    The Aghawagon Valley hardly seems like one of the wealthiest places on earth. The Indonesian government has spent as little as possible on developing the California-size province of Irian Jaya. In remote corners of the mountainous interior, local women still wear only grass skirts and men go naked except for a traditional koteka, a decorative gourd to cover the penis. Life tends to be far less picturesque along the Aghawagon River, where jeans, T shirts and shabby dresses are the rule. Three years ago the overcrowded valley's poverty broke into tribal war between the native Amungme people and the more numerous Dani settlers who were lured here from hundreds of kilometers away by false hopes of easy money for illiterate laborers. Nine people were killed before local authorities could restore peace. Thousands of inhabitants were relocated down the frothy, dark-gray river, to new homes in the delta town of Timika. Thousands of others remain, most of them scratching a subsistence from...
  • Burma's Terror Twins

    Boxed in and mercilessly outgunned, the remnants of "God's Army" battled to the end for their impossible cause. The Christian fundamentalist guerrillas' mystical leaders--the cheroot-chomping preteen twin brothers Johnny and Luther Htoo--had vanished. Kamaplaw, their base on a jungle hillock at the Thai-Burmese border, was crumbling under a furious assault by the armed forces of both countries' governments. The shelling only intensified after 10 desperate guerrillas broke away from the fight on Monday, seized a hospital in Thailand and took more than 100 patients and staff members as hostages. A day later Thai security forces stormed the hospital and dumped the fighters' 10 corpses on the front steps. Through it all, many of the twins' disciples claimed to be unshakably certain that Johnny and his less talkative brother, Luther, had supernatural powers. But late last week God's Army seemed beyond help, even from miracles.The Htoo twins' saga is at once tragic and scarcely plausible....
  • Terror Twins

    Boxed in and mercilessly outgunned, the remnants of "God's Army" battled to the end for their impossible cause. The Christian fundamentalist guerrillas' mystical leaders--cheroot-chomping preteen twin brothers Johnny and Luther Htoo--had vanished. Kamaplaw, their base on a jungle hillock at the Thai-Burmese border, was crumbling under a furious assault by both countries' armed forces. The shelling only intensified after 10 desperate guerrillas broke away from the fight on Monday, seized a hospital in Thailand and took more than 100 hostages. A day later Thai security forces stormed the hospital and dumped the fighters' 10 corpses on the front steps. Through it all, many of the twins' disciples claimed to be unshakably certain that Johnny and his less talkative brother, Luther, had supernatural powers. But late last week God's Army seemed beyond help, even from miracles.The Htoo twins' saga is at once tragic and scarcely plausible. Can these two waifs really command an adult...
  • Shadow Of A Coup

    To get a sense of just how dicey things are in Indonesia these days, get a load of Jakarta's reaction to some blunt American lecturing. It came as sectarian violence in the outlying Maluku Islands spread to the tourist haven of Lombok. Indonesia's top brass and the reformist President Abdurrahman Wahid had been locked in an exchange of threats. Suddenly, the hard-charging U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke stepped into the mess, warning against "military adventurism" which "would do Indonesia immense, perhaps irreparable damage." The proud Indonesians didn't bristle at the American meddling. Wahid said he "appreciated" Holbrooke's statement. The president's allies said the warning was a godsend. "It had an enormous impact," Attorney General Marzuki Darusman told NEWSWEEK. "This may make the military think twice."Before doing what, exactly? Did the Americans get wind of a coup plot? Wahid played down Holbrooke's statement, saying, "I don't think there will be a...
  • First-Person Global

    An election upset, war in the Balkans, violent demonstrations, a lost spacecraft--our correspondents witnessed it all. Four look back on some of the turning points of 1999. ...
  • Periscope

    It was one of the oddest news stories of the year. Last January, Johnny and Luther Htoo, 12-year-old Burmese twins believed to possess magical powers, launched a botched raid on a Thai hospital that left 10 of their followers dead. Unable to forget the erie photo of cherub-faced Johnny and cigar-smoking Luther, PERI asked: where are they now?The Htoo's guerrilla group, God's Army, collapsed in disarray shortly after the raid, and the twins fled into the jungle with a dozen followers, pursued by Thai and Burmese soldiers. Tipped off by some of the twins' conventional dodging tactics (they changed out of their military uniforms and Luther shaved his head) followers began to suspect they had lost their alleged powers to turn invisible and evade bullets. In October, Johnny and Luther joined the Karen Natinal Union, and are now based some 35 kilometers inside Burma, opposite Thailand's Kanchanaburi province. Johnny and Luther, say visitors, still enjoy sliding down hills on cardboard...
  • The Promise Of Trouble

    Hamamah last saw her husband alive as he walked off into the rice fields last August. A neighbor rushed to tell her that Indonesian Army troops were sweeping her village, Merasah Mesjid, for separatists. Soon afterward, bursts of automatic gunfire tore through the silence. Panicked, Hamamah, 22, grabbed her three young sons and fled with 800 other villagers to the safety of a mosque 50 kilometers away. The radio reported that the military had dropped off nine dead guerrillas belonging to the Free Aceh Movement, or GAM, at the local hospital. Her husband, Said Ramli, 28, was among the dead. "My husband was a farmer, not a fighter," says Hamamah, weeping, in the mosque compound. "We will never have justice under Indonesia. Independence is the only way."It's easy to see why Hamamah would feel that way. When Indonesia's new president, Abdurrahman Wahid, offered to let Aceh hold a referendum on independence, he didn't expect an explosion. The Muslim scholar, a holy man and peacemaker...
  • Indonesia's Magic Man

    Meeting Abdurrahman Wahid at his modest South Jakarta house is like visiting a respected village elder. You always find a line of people waiting to see him: slick-suited businessmen, social activists, poor East Javanese farmers all come to unload their troubles and receive his blessing. They sit or stand on the front porch, the nearly blind and stroke-hobbled Muslim scholar they know as Gus Dur (meaning "older brother") visible inside through a wide-open door. Usually, he's sitting on a lumpy couch, dressed in loose-fitting clothes, talking to his guests over a cup of tea. As the leader of a 40-million-strong religious organization, you might expect him to put on airs. But he loves to joke and has a knack for making people feel comfortable. It is these attributes, Indonesians now hope, that will help their newly elected president restore their country's battered reputation. "If it weren't for Gus Dur's message of tolerance and reconciliation, Indonesia would have gone up in flames...
  • The Saint And The Housewife

    Hardly anyone took Abdurrahman Wahid's presidential bid seriously--until the votes were counted. The ailing, nearly blind Muslim scholar, 59, easily ranks as Indonesia's most admired and beloved individual. Many Indonesians venerate him as a living saint. All the same, it's hard to envision a more unlikely politician than this otherworldly, unpredictable holy man. Throughout his campaign, people kept asking him incredulously if he was really running. They were still asking him only hours before the formal vote began in Indonesia's electoral college, the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR). The candidate hardly even seemed to want the job. As the 691 ballots were counted aloud, one by one, in the cavernous assembly hall, Wahid's supporters roared approval each time his name was pronounced. Meanwhile, in the front row, their champion stared silently into space.No one laughed at Megawati Sukarnoputri. The housewife opposition leader, 52, daughter of the country's first president,...
  • Duel Of The Shadow Puppets

    One thing is clear enough: if Indonesia's students were voting, President B. J. Habibie would be out in a flash. Thousands of them hit Jakarta's streets last week, tossing Molotov cocktails and clashing with riot troops, as Habibie delivered an "accountability speech," his justification of his 17-month-old administration. Some 170 protesters were hurt. If it were up to them, Indonesia's next president would be Megawati Sukarnoputri, the taciturn housewife who sparked the struggle against fallen former president Suharto. The students carried red flags and banners covered with her supporters' signatures, some allegedly scrawled in blood. no way other than mega, the signs vowed. But the students aren't voting, and this week's presidential election looks murkier than ever. "If [Megawati] doesn't get elected, there will be an upheaval," says Nezar Patria, a journalist and former student leader.Megawati would have no one to blame but herself. When her party, the Indonesian Democratic...
  • 'You Can't Run, You Can't Hide'

    The people of East Timor couldn't help but feel twinges of optimism. As Australian-led peacekeeping troops rolled in and started arresting armed thugs who had been terrorizing the territory, young men came pouring down from the hills where they had been hiding. "I am not afraid anymore," said Martino Pinto, 26, who had left his wife and four children in the hills to search for food and see if it were safe to take them home. Thousands of other hopeful men flocked into the burned out East Timorese capital of Dili, where Indonesian-backed militias and soldiers had been on a wild killing and looting spree. Two weeks after 80 percent of the East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia, they were hoping to rebuild their lives. "This is a great blessing," said Pinto's friend Maria de Fatima, whose small medical clinic was trashed by Indonesian soldiers.East Timor's salvation is still a long way off. Days after the peacekeepers arrived, the streets of Dili remained deathtraps....
  • One Thug, One Vote

    The most defiant act of their lives started like a stealth operation. Before dawn on the day of East Timor's referendum on independence from Indonesia, a schoolteacher named Armindo Florindo trekked into the deforested hills to round up hundreds of frightened villagers. They were hiding from pro-Indonesian militiamen, bands of heavily armed, murderous thugs who were threatening to kill anyone who voted for independence. Florindo, a former pro-independence guerrilla who spent nearly a decade in jail, led the villagers into his dilapidated schoolhouse in a poor neighborhood outside Dili, East Timor's capital. Still others, casting their fears aside, were already celebrating the scent of future freedom. More than 1,500 villagers, many dressed in their Sunday best, crowded into the schoolyard. As the sun rose over the hills, Florindo cast the first vote for independence. "This is East Timor's best day ever," Florindo said. "Even better," interrupted voter Januario Lourdes Freites, "this...
  • The Winds Of Rage

    On a wall among the ruins, someone has painted an epitaph of sorts: place of ethnic cleansing. A stately house once stood on this site in Bili Aron, a village in Indonesia's westernmost province, Aceh, on the northwestern tip of Sumatra. The building was an outpost in the Indonesian government's merciless 10-year war against the separatist Free Aceh Movement, known by the initials GAM. The armed forces used the house as an interrogation center.Neighbors recall incessant screams and gunshots from inside, and the sight of prisoners being hanged by their thumbs from a tree in the garden. "I saw and heard the terrible things that were happening, but I didn't have the power to do anything," says Rukiah, 38, who lives next door. "I prayed." (Like many Indonesians, he uses a single name.) Syahkubat, a 45-year-old neighbor, tells of being imprisoned and tortured in the house for three months in 1997. He was leading his buffalo out to graze when troops seized him on suspicion of aiding the...