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Indonesia Cops Block Army Protest

October 5, 1998

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Dozens of police and troops Monday blocked a street march by about 300 students who demanded an end to the Indonesian military’s role in politics.

The protesters carried banners and placards and got within 200 yards of the national Parliament building before being stopped by four lines of security personnel under an overpass, resulting in a major traffic jam.

A second group of 150 protesters got past a police cordon and gathered outside the gates of the legislature.

Riot police with sticks and shields stood watch. There were no reports of injuries or arrests.

Monday’s protest coincided with celebrations marking the 53rd anniversary of the founding of Indonesia’s military.

The demonstration was against a so-called ``dual function″ policy that gives the military two roles: to act as legislators and to guard Indonesia’s national security.

Under the policy, the military has 75 seats allocated to it in the 500-member national Parliament.

``When the army plays politics only the officers benefit,″ said one protest organizer, Ahmad Busaidin.

Under former autocratic President Suharto, the military was accused of widespread human rights abuses.

Since Suharto quit amid riots and protests in May, senior commanders have promised to improve the professionalism of soldiers.

They have said, however, that the dual function policy will be maintained.

In another anti-military protest police and troops stopped about 60 young professional workers from marching from the welcome monument in the heart of Jakarta’s downtown to the nearby military headquarters.

Many of the group had painted their faces or wore Halloween skull masks to symbolize human rights abuses by troops.

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