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Thursday, February 12, 1998 Published at 16:16 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Suharto puts military on alert
image: [ Indonesian protestors march against rising food prices ]
Indonesian protestors march against rising food prices

President Suharto of Indonesia has told the armed forces to be prepared to take tough measures against threats to national unity.

More rioting has broken out over food prices in the town of Jatiwangi 200km east of the capital, Jakarta.

According to eyewitnesses a crowd of several hundred people attacked shops owned by the ethnic Chinese minority, throwing stones and setting fire to at least five of them.

The BBC's Jonathan Head: "The army is stretched very very thin" (Dur: 1' 46")
The BBC Jakarta correspondent says the Indonesian authorities are clearly nervous about the possibility of more unrest over the next few weeks.

In a speech to top military officers, Mr Suharto conceded that his government had so far failed to control the economic crisis, which has prompted the riots.

He accused small political groups of exploiting the economic situation to achieve their goals and using the language of democracy to force their views on other Indonesians - a reference to critics who have been demanding that Mr Suharto step down.

Elections due

[ image: The President has no plans to step down]
The President has no plans to step down
Mr Suharto is the only candidate for president in next month's elections to the People's Consultative Assembly

The President also approved changes to the current armed forces leadership - the new military leaders all staunch nationalists.

The new armed forces commander is the widely respected General Wiranto, who has a record of unflinching support for the President.

President Suharto's son-in-law General Prabowo will take over the influential Strategic Reserve combat regiment, considered especially important during periods of political tension.

Prices of some basic commodities have already increased by two or three times this year, due to a record drought and the collapse of the Indonesian currency.

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