Indonesian Journeys

Indonesian Journeys

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Acehnese tsunami survivor children play outside their 'tent home'

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In just over ten years, Indonesia has transformed from a centralised authoritarian regime under Suharto to a decentralised multi-party democracy.

With parliamentary elections approaching in April and a presidential poll later in the year, what are the issues, challenges and expectations of the world's largest Muslim population?

Anita Barraud of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) travels to four very different parts of Indonesia where 240 million people are preparing for their general election.

Part two - Democracy and diversity - Aceh

For more than 30 years the Free Aceh Movement sought independence for this tiny province on the northern tip of Sumatra.

The conflict between the forces of the central government and the supporters of the independence movement has waxed waned between open guerrilla warfare and sporadic violence since 1976, with little scrutiny from the outside world.

All of that changed on 26 December 2004, when the Boxing Day tsunami claimed more than 150,000 lives.

It was then the world discovered Aceh had also suffered decades of war.

One of the consequences of this sudden international attention was the signing of a peace agreement between Indonesia's central government and the battle-fatigued independence movement.

Aceh is now held up as a model of autonomy for other restive provinces such as Papua, as well as more distant countries where regional minorities seek independence from centralised state authority, such as the Tamil region of Sri Lanka and parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Over its famous thick black coffee, Anita explores how peace and democracy is working in a province that has endured dictatorship, decades of war, and the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

Indonesian Journeys is co-production by ABC's Anita Barraud and the BBC's Neil Trevithick.

This documentary was first broadcast on ABC Radio National and aired on BBC World Service on Wednesday 4th March 2009.

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