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Thursday, 17 January, 2002, 18:25 GMT
Aceh dreams of independence 'futile'
Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels said they held ceremonies at secret locations in the jungle.
GAM separatists allege human rights abuses
Separatists in the Indonesian province of Aceh should give up their dreams of independence, the country's vice president has warned.

Hamzah Haz was visiting the provincial capital Banda Aceh on Thursday on the second day of a general strike called by rebels of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

Seven people were reported to have died in the latest fighting on Thursday, which has been going on for more than 25 years.

An estimated 10,000 people have been killed since then - more than 100 already this year.

But Mr Haz said the violence was futile because autonomy was the best the province was going to get.

"People must not be influenced by GAM's promises to establish an independent nation of Aceh as all the wishes of the Acehnese have been met," said Mr Haz.

Human rights report

Jakarta last year granted Aceh greater self-rule and a larger share of oil and gas revenues. It also allowed the province to implement Islamic law but ruled out independence.

But the government is failing to address human rights violations in Aceh, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in its annual report released on Wednesday.

"The 2001 death toll had topped 1,300 by September, and while most of the deaths were civilians caused in the course of military operations, the rebel Free Aceh Movement was also responsible for serious abuses," it said.

Many towns were said to be largely deserted on Thursday as people stayed at home.

GAM called the strike to protest against alleged human rights abuses by the security forces and a government plan to revive a separate military command for the province.

The Home Affairs Minister Hari Sabarno said plans to revive the military command in Aceh were still being studied.

At the start of the strike on Wednesday there were reports that police drove buses and forced some shopkeepers to open their businesses in Banda Aceh.

There were also reports of rebel intimidation to force shopkeepers to close.

See also:

04 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Aceh rebels fly the flag
20 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Aceh: Megawati's toughest test
16 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Megawati sorry for rights abuses
15 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Megawati meets Aceh leaders
14 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Aceh calls for 'Timor-style' vote
13 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Indonesia's fragile archipelago
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