MEULABOH (Aceh): At 10am, the Indonesian military (TNI) entered Blang Tengah, a village about 40km from here, and ordered the villagers to evacuate their houses and seek refuge in a safe place.
“A TNI commander told the kepala desa (village head) that the military will be conducting its operation in the vicinity of our village,” said Hashim Nyajlam, a 34-year-old padi and peanut farmer from Blang Tengah, of the May 27 incident.
Hashim added that the village head told him that the military was looking for GAM fighters who were hiding in the hills near his village.
Fearing that his family would be caught in crossfire between the military and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) fighters, Hashim bolted his wooden house and abandoned his two hectares of farmland.
The head of the family of five was given three hours by the military to pack his personal belonging and 10kg of rice and head by sampan (wooden boat) to Mogo Rayeuk, a village about 2km away.
In the village, Hashim and his family were placed in the Mogo Rayeuk mosque together with 367 people including 15 pregnant women from Blang Tengah and Sebintang villages.
Nine days later after their evacuation, when met in Mogo Rayeuk village which is about 310km from Aceh’s capital, Banda Aceh, the 367 displaced people still could not return to their villages.
Hashim not only had to worry about his abandoned house and land but whether his 10kg of rice will last until he and his family could return home.
So far, he said, the Indonesian government had given 1kg of rice and Rupiah 4,000 (RM1.80) per person.
The contribution from the government was not enough as 1kg of rice can last three days for a family of six, he added.
However, seeking refuge in the mosque had its advantage, he said, adding “di sini aman, tiada tembak menembak (it is peaceful here, no shooting).”
Hashim is among 26,347 people who have been displaced since the military offensive began on May 19.
Various organisations, including Indonesia’s biggest Muslim group Muhamadiyah, has called for the troops to avoid civilian casualties.
They felt that the main aim of the military operation should be winning the hearts and minds of the Acehnese and not a military takeover of villages.
Amnesty International has also called on the Indonesian authorities to halt any plans to transfer some 200,000 civilians into special camps in the military’s campaign to crush GAM.