U.S. Knew about and Supported 1965 PKI Murders, Documents Reveal

A set of newly declassified documents reveal that the U.S. government had detailed knowledge the Indonesian Army was conducting a campaign of mass murder against the country’s Communist Party (PKI) starting in 1965.

The documents, posted on Tuesday by National Security Archive at The George Washington University also shows that U.S. diplomats at the Jakarta Embassy kept a record of which PKI leaders were being executed. The materials even suggest that U.S. officials actively supported Indonesian Army efforts to destroy the country’s left-leaning labour movement.

“We knew about these things more generally, but it’s great to have this information in black and white so it’s not just based on oral interviews with victims,” said John Roosa, an associate professor of history at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and author of a book on the events of 1965, as quoted by The New York Times.

“The U.S. was following what was happening very closely, and if it weren’t for its support, you could argue that the army would never have felt the confidence to take power,” he added.

According to the National Security Archive in the United States, much of the documents were previously classified but were recently processed by the National Declassification Center followed by growing public interest in the remaining U.S. documents concerning the mass killings of 1965-1966. American and Indonesian human rights and freedom of information activists, filmmakers, as well as a group of U.S. Senators led by Tom Udall (D-NM), had called for the materials to be made public.

Indonesia has seen a rise in an anti-PKI sentiment of late. Rumors of a PKI revival have been brewing for the past few years, with some groups alleging President Joko Widodo and some of his ministers of being affiliated with the PKI. More recently, fake news provoked a group of people to besiege the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute Foundation (YLBHI) following a PKI-related accusation directed towards the foundation. This has reinvigorated the historical debate on the PKI and the 1965 mass murder.

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Ardi Wirdana is a Jakarta-based journalist covering a variety
of topics including business, policy, and news in Indonesia.


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