Victims of 1998 Indonesia unrest still seek justice

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Mothers who lost children during the political turmoil of 1998 take part in a weekly "Kamisan" silent protest against violations of human rights outside presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 17, 2018. Picture taken May 17, 2018. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

JAKARTA (Reuters) – For the past decade, Indonesian housewife Maria Sanu joined a small group of protesters at a silent weekly vigil outside the presidential palace in Jakarta, seeking justice for her son who died during the political turmoil of 1998.

Around 1,200 people were killed in the capital, mostly trapped in burning buildings, as mobs rampaged through the streets and attacked shops at the height of the Asian financial crisis in May 1998.

The riots preceded the resignation on May 21 of strongman president Suharto, who ruled the world’s fourth-most populous country with an iron fist for 32 years.

Sanu’s 16-year-old son Stevanus is believed to have perished when a Jakarta mall was set ablaze, though his remains have never been identified.

“He had been playing football in a mosque nearby. I went there, but it was deserted. His friend told me he had gone to Yogya Plaza Mall,” said Sanu, 70, referring to the mall where several hundred people are believed to have been burnt alive.

“I feel empty and something is missing. I want his unnatural death resolved,” said Sanu.

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