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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 August 2006, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Acehnese mark one year of peace
Demonstrators on the street in Banda Aceh
The deal ended decades of fighting between rebels and troops
Thousands of people in Indonesia's Aceh province have marked the anniversary of a peace deal between the government and separatist rebels.

Some protesters accused the government of failing to keep its promise of greater independence for Aceh.

But others praised the peace pact that ended decades of armed conflict in which an estimated 15,000 people died.

The pace talks were started after the December 2004 tsunami that devastated huge swathes of Aceh.

On Tuesday, thousands of people travelled to the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, to voice their concerns at the anniversary rally.

At least 10,000 protesters gathered outside the city's main mosque, chanting slogans.

Some people were there to celebrate a year of peace in the troubled province.

We are thankful for the truce, but we want to ensure it will not fail us
Ibrahim Nyak Mad

"We all just wish that this peace will last forever," Muhammad Adam of North Aceh told the French news agency AFP.

"During the conflict, people in my village could barely make a living but now, after the MOU (peace deal), we can go calmly to the rice fields without fear."

But others were less happy with progress since the deal was signed on 15 August 2005.

"If the government does not respond to our demands, don't blame the people of Aceh if they once again demand their freedom," Mohammed Nazar, an activist, told the crowds.

Legislation

Both Gam (the Free Aceh Movement) and the Jakarta government made compromises to reach agreement.

Map of Indonesia

The former rebels handed in their weapons to international monitors and Indonesia pulled out its police and army reinforcements.

Gam also dropped its call for an independent Acehnese state and the government agreed to let it become a local party.

But in recent months, many Acehnese have started to see problems creeping into the deal.

Parliament recently passed a law setting out the terms of Aceh's autonomy, but Gam has complained that the new legislation waters down the rights given to them in the peace deal.

They say that several articles limit local administrative power, while the role of the Indonesian military in Aceh remains unclear.

One protester, Ibrahim Nyak Mad, told Reuters: "The Aceh people have the right to object if they have a problem with an iota in the bill. We are thankful for the truce, but we want to ensure it will not fail us."

Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who brokered the deal, attended a ceremony in Aceh to mark the anniversary, alongside former rebels and Indonesian government officials.




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