Reconciliation is the best solution for conflict in Aceh
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The history of the conflict in Aceh began in the pre-colonial era, during which the Acehnese struggled to fight the Dutch for more than three centuries. The conflict has continued for the last three decades between the Indonesian central government and the GAM (Free Aceh Movement). The GAM has been able to develop and improve its struggle using conventional and modified guerilla tactics. The GAM leadership in exile utilizes central government and military weaknesses to their advantage, including the collapse of the strong authoritarian government in 1998 and the independence of East Timor afterward. They succeed in exploiting the populace's grievances in order to create enemy images of Indonesian colonialism in Aceh. The central government and military responses to confront conflict in Aceh have never changed much, and the military has always been the primary option. Though military operations have been able to suppress the rebels, it also has a negative impact on Acehnese society due to weaknesses within the military, such as less professional soldiers and a limited budget. Dialogue between the GAM and the central government took place in 1999, but ended in failure in 2003, and the central government launched an integrated operation. As the rebel movement escalates, military action that led to the integrated operation was necessary and unavoidable to restore the government system and public law and order. Nevertheless, with the lessons learned from the past rebellion, the merely military option would not be sufficient to win the war in Aceh. Aceh needs more comprehensive policies starting with reconciliation followed by economic and governance rehabilitations. The required prerequisites for reconciliation are ending the hostilities between leaders and giving more incentives for rebels in the field to surrender. The latter needs the trust that can be built by granting amnesty or sentence reduction to ex-rebels. At the same time, internal improvements should also be made within the military to foster better performance. Reconciliation and societal development do not need to halt military action as long as the security of the Acehnese and public order are still threatened.
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