Prabowo Subianto

A long string of ambushes, murders and massacres lie in the former general’s past, writes Asia Sentinel’s Warren Doull

In Indonesia, Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto’s campaign has successfully managed damage control over his shady past, controlling the scope and terminology of criticism and the perception of criticism as politically motivated lies rather than rooted in fact.

But behind this new perception of successful businessman and steady-handed national guide lies a long and well-documented series of incidents that question his psychological stability. While these incidents have been alluded to during the campaign, rounding them up in one package paints a picture of a dangerous figure unable to handle dissent, either overtly or covertly, if he wins the presidency.

The main criticism voiced in the media about Prabowo’s past is his kidnapping of activists in 1997-1998. For the average Indonesian, given the pace of the presidential campaign, it would be easy to perceive this as an isolated incident. But Prabowo’s entire military career was riddled with accusations of military insubordination and murder. Here are some of the accusations.

1983, East Timor: Many people believe Prabowo masterminded the Kraras Village massacre of September 1983, in which Indonesian soldiers murdered 287 villagers including women and children, in reprisal for the mass desertion of Timorese soldiers from the Indonesian army.

Nearby villagers say that two Timorese militia leaders known to have been Prabowo’s bodyguards had directed the killings. The survivors were reportedly rounded up into a kind of concentration camp, where an estimated further 1,000 died of starvation and disease. Prabowo is reported to have been one of the commanders at the time of the massacres and the concentration camp, though his exact role remains unclear.

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