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US should freeze help for Indonesia military: activists

world Updated: Feb 18, 2009 11:52 IST

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should use her visit to Indonesia to call on the country's military to stop human rights abuses or risk losing US military assistance, activists said on Wednesday. Clinton should abandon the "all-carrot, no stick approach" of former president George W Bush in engaging the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) and make assistance conditional on reform, US-based rights activists said in a letter.

"We urge Secretary of State Clinton to promote a forward-looking agenda when she visits Indonesia. Any military assistance should be contingent on human rights accountability and real reform," East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) coordinator John Miller said in a statement.

"The TNI looks at US government actions. Statements promoting rights and reforms will be dismissed by the TNI unless US assistance is suspended until genuine progress has been made," said the letter, signed by the heads of almost 40 rights and civil society groups, mostly from the United States.

Senior officers allegedly behind gross human rights abuses during the 32-year regime of former dictator Suharto and the 24-year occupation of East Timor have gone unpunished and continue to have successful careers, it said.

The military also remains involved in illegal businesses such as logging, prostitution rings and protection rackets for foreign and local businesses, the letter said.

President Bush resumed military ties and arms sales to Indonesia in 2005 after a six-year embargo, arguing the Muslim-majority nation was an essential partner in the "war on terror".