Activists find 10 new mass graves containing victims of 1965 anti-communist purge

CNN Indonesia – October 24, 2017
Bedjo Untung and YPKP 65 members at Kemenkopolhukam - May 2017 (CNN)
Bedjo Untung and YPKP 65 members at Kemenkopolhukam - May 2017 (CNN)

Bimo Wiwoho, Jakarta – The chairperson of the Institute for the Study of the 1965-1966 Massacres (YPKP 65), Bedjo Untung, claims that they have found 10 new mass grave sites containing the bodies of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) sympathisers who were killed in 1965-1966.

The new sites add to a list of 122 mass graves already found by the YPKP 65.

“We have already visited all the sites. We have dug up information from witness testimonies”, said Bedjo at the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) office in Jakarta on Tuesday October 24. Bedjo also said that the YPKP 65 has urged the Komnas HAM to carry out a follow up investigation on the gross human rights violations that took place in 1965.

Bedjo said that the 10 new mass grave sites were spread across several different locations, namely Magetan and Pacitan in East Java, Cilacap, Grobogan and Purwodadi in Central Java, and Sukabumi in West Java. The location of sites varied, some were in mainland areas while others were near beaches or coastal areas.

Most of the mass graves have been covered by structures built on top of them such as shops and hotels. “Some have also been flattened and become residential areas, beneath which there are mass graves”, he added.

The YPKP admitted that the location of the mass grave sites is based on the testimonies of living witnesses. For example, Bedjo claims that he one met an executioner who killed PKI sympathisers and who was quite willing to provide testimony. “He felt that it was the state’s job. [He was] ordered to shoot them, yes they (the victims) were shot”, he said.

In addition to this, testimonies were also obtained from those that dug the graves and held lamps when PKI sympathisers were shot at night. According to Bedjo, these witnesses felt bad if they did not elaborate on what actually happened and it was because of this that Bedjo found it easier to dig up the information. “They informed us. They still remembered because there was a marker, namely a coconut tree”, he said.

With regard to the number of victims and the exact location of the new mass graves Bedjo was still reluctant to elaborate saying that there were things that still needed to be completed so that the data is valid and comprehensive.

Based on data received by CNN Indonesia, the YPKP 65 has previously discovered 122 mass grave sites around the country amounting to some 13,999 victims who have been buried.

This includes 50 sites in Central Java with a total of 5,543 victims, two sites in Yogyakarta with a total of 757 bodies, 28 sites in East Java with 2,846 victims, three locations in West Java with 115 bodies and one site in Banten with 200 victims.

In addition to this there are seven sites in North Sumatra with a total of 5,759 victims, 21 sites in West Sumatra with 1,988 bodies, two sites in South Sumatra with 2,150 victims and Riau Islands with five sites containing a total of 173 bodies.

Finally in Bali, where the YPKP 65 says it found a mass grave with 11 bodies, and East Kalimantan and Sulawesi, each with one site although the number of victims has not been counted in detail. “There are still many [more] mass graves and it is certain that others will be found”, continued Bedjo.

Bedjo said that details on the 122 mass graves were given to Komnas HAM and the Ministry for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs (Kemenkopolhukam) in 2016.

At the time, Bedjo gave the data on the mass graves to Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, who was then the Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs. Bedjo gave the data to Pandjaitan because he had showed an interest in the government-sponsored National Symposium on the 1965 Tragedy that was held on April 18-19 last year. At the time, said Bedjo, Pandjaitan promised to follow it up.

“But when it was given to him, he seemed to equivocate claiming that there were no mass graves. And up until now since [Pandjaitan] was replaced by Wiranto, there has been no follow up”, said Bedjo.

On October 17 as many as 39 documents totalling some 30,000 pages on a plot by the army to overthrow then President Sukarno and destroy the PKI was released by the non-profit National Security Archive (NSA), the National Declassification Center (NDC) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and published on the website

In response to the release of the documents, Indonesian Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir claimed that the government would check with the US government in order to ascertain the validity and accuracy of the documents.

“What we need to do before drawing any conclusions is to check the accuracy and validity of these reports”, said Nasir during a press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday October 18.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was Ditemukan, 10 Kuburan Massal Baru Korban Pembunuhan 1965.]