Defector walks a lonely road

BIREUEN (Indonesia): Good looking with thick black hair, Dedi in normal circumstances would be the envy of most men. 

Although a little on the short side, his good looks must have turned many heads.  

But today, this 23-year-old walks a very lonely path.  

He is afraid to even call his fiancé because “I love her too much”.  

A week ago, Dedi, who was a local commander of the Gerakan Aceh Movement (GAM) for five districts around Bireuen, turned himself in to the Indonesian police. 

“GAM is not good anymore. Members demand money from villagers, even those who are poor, and threaten those who do not want to give them any,” he said in an interview at the Bireuen police station grounds. 

POLICE SIGN: The Brimob sign is a brigade mobile police road sign, saying no to the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) people in Aceh.

Dedi, who in his three years with GAM has never killed anyone, said when the latest Indonesian military (TNI) operations against GAM started on May 19, he still had no intention or desire to kill anyone – not even the forces who were out to crush the movement. 

He got word that some GAM members in other areas had surrendered, so he left his AK-47 with the other GAM fighters in the jungle and made his way to the village on the pretext that he was ill and needed medicine. 

When he gave himself up at the Peudada police station, he asked them to take him to the Bireuen police station, about 10km away. 

“If any GAM members see me, they will shoot me. Ngak bisa pulang ke kampong ( I can’t go back to my kampung). 

“My uncle came to see and told me my parents have been threatened by GAM and told me not to go home.  

“I know my parents still love me. But I can’t see them. And I can’t telephone them either,” he said. (His parents have no personal phones in their home). 

The same goes for his fiancé.  

He did not dare risk a phone call to her because that could put her in danger. 

Because of his situation, Dedi is allowed to wander about freely in the Bireuen police station and its grounds as the police know he is not going anywhere and that even a short walk outside would be suicide. 

After living in the jungle for three years, the police station has now become his new home.  

He sleeps in the station surau, eats all his meals in the canteen within the station grounds and spends time watching television, talking with policemen or sleeping. 

“I cannot set foot outside the grounds. I dare not – not even to the shop nearby. If the GAM people see me, they will gun me down in the streets. 

“I may not even know who they are. But they would have found out what I look like and are waiting for the chance to get me.  

I do feel so alone,” he acknowledged. 

Bireuen has remained a black (hardcore GAM) area for TNI since its all-out war in Aceh to finish off GAM rebels who are fighting for an independent Aceh. 

The most intense fighting has been concentrated in Bireuen, Pidie and Lhok Seumawe.  

As the local commander in the area, part of his task has been to train new recruits. 

He said for the first month, new recruits were not given weapons or ammunition and had to practise using pieces of wood as make-believe guns. 

It is only after completing this training that they finally got real guns – AK47 and were also taught how to use rocket launchers. 

Dedi said just about two months ago, he trained 13 new recruits.  

And although he was close to them, he was aware that any of the 13 would now not hesitate to shoot him if they saw him because they would be angry with him for his surrender. 

“Right now, I don’t have any plans. I just want to leave Aceh because it is impossible for me to live here anymore.  

I know I must break off my engagement. That would be best for us both in the future,” he said.  

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