Mon, 26 May 2003

RI asks Thailand to arrest GAM leader living there

Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Bandung

Indonesian Police have requested the Thai government arrest Free Aceh Movement (GAM) leader Zakirah Zaman, who has allegedly been hiding in Thailand for some time.

National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar said here on Saturday that Zakirah was known to be one of GAM's main leaders.

"We have informed the Thai government about the presence of the man, but so far it has not yet located him," Da'i said on the sidelines of his visit to the West Java capital.

He said the police had mentioned the escape of the rebel chief to Thailand to visiting Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai on Friday.

"He (Zakirah) has been living in Thailand for quite a while and, according to information, was one of GAM's top leaders," Da'i said.

Earlier, Jakarta asked Bangkok to help prevent the smuggling of arms from Thailand to GAM guerrilla fighters, following reports on the movement of arms from southern Thailand to Aceh.

Thailand and Indonesia have signed an extradition treaty.

The Indonesian government has sought international assistance to curb the activities of GAM leaders in exile, some of whom have changed their nationality while abroad.

Efforts were intensified last week when martial law came into effect in Aceh on Monday and a full-blown military operation began, to quell the rebels.

Jakarta has also repeatedly asked the Swedish government to take action against GAM leaders Hasan Tiro, Zaini Abdullah and Malik Mahmud, who have obtained Swedish nationality and who have led the rebellion in Aceh while in exile since the late 1970s.

Indonesia has provided evidence to the European state that the three men were involved, not only with the separatist movement, but in terror attacks in Jakarta since 2000.

So far, the Swedish government has not yet officially responded to the request. Swedish law allows the government to provide political asylum for foreigners.

Indonesia and Sweden have no extradition treaty, making it difficult for Jakarta to seek Stockholm's help in arresting the GAM leaders.

Da'i said that there were no reasons for Sweden not to fulfill the request, as both countries were part of the Interpol network.

He reiterated that Indonesia had send a "red notice" about the GAM leaders to Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France.

Indonesian police also have established a communications network with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries to monitor the possible escape of GAM leaders to any of the countries concerned.

In relations to the law enforcement efforts in the province during martial law, Da'i said that currently, 15 criminal cases, with 16 suspects from GAM, were under police investigation.

The cases were submitted by the martial law administrator in Aceh to the provincial police in the past week, he added.

The police chief was in Bandung to hand over 26 operational vehicles to the provincial police, plus 100 cars, 20 trucks and 12 motorcycles for use by police precincts across the province.