Jan 8, 2005

Situation on the ground in Aceh

Banda Aceh airport remains off limits to private aircraft. The airport is being fully utilized by the United States, Australia, Singapore and Indonesian governments to distribute food aid and conduct all related relief operations. Airspace surrounding all the affected areas is also off limits without any prior authorization. A few NGOs have been given authorization to operate helicopters and assist in relief operations. Authorization can be obtained only by written request at least 72 hours prior to intended move. United Nations Joint Logistics Centre - cargo movement request can be obtained here.

The nearest international airport in operation is in Medan which is 250 miles away and a 12 hour road journey. Medan airport is severely congested and being fully utilized by governments and authorized non-government organizations assisting in the relief operations. Medan airport consists of only a single runway and two aprons. Prior authorization is now also required to fly into Medan. More details can be found here. Passenger aircraft still operate into Medan although many flights are now subject to cancellation at the last moment.

Road travel from Medan to Aceh is also restricted and security Indonesian government checkpoints are in place. There have been incidents as we reported here where militant groups have attacked check points and attempted to hijack relief convoys from Medan to the affected areas.

No Laksar Jihad or Gerakan Acheh Merdeka (GAM) are currently involved in the official distribution or relief operations at Banda Aceh airport. Security clearances are needed. They are though complaining to various so-called human rights groups around the globe and insisting that they be allowed to participate along with various other so-called human rights groups. The modus operandi of these groups is always the same. Claim attrocities and human rights violations, Beg for donations and then use the money collected to purchase airplane tickets to send "human shields" with suitcases full of condoms to interfere with the relief operations. Groups such as Tapol (based in England) have issued the following statement. The statement is self explanatory. If you wondered what the "human shields" of Iraq have been up to lately, wonder no more.

Another new setup in the region here is "Alt Aid Acheh-Tsunami" and they are pissed off. Not only are they pissed of, but they need money. What do they need money for you might ask? Well here is a list of their demands:
  • Pressure the Indonesian government to investigate claims of corruption and intimidation within its armed forces stationed in Acheh.
  • Ask the Indonesian government to clarify, transparently, the aid distribution system currently at work
  • Urge for more civilian aid groups to assist humanitarian work in Acheh, rather than the Indonesian military
  • Send international, independent observers into Acheh to monitor the current situation.
You might notice that things like provide for food, potable water and medicine is somehow missing from the list of demands. Those billions of dollars collected have to be spent somehow, and everybody has their hand out now that Kofi is controlling the cash.

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