07 February 2004

Royal Dutch Marines vs. South Moluccan Terrorists, 1977

Most baby boomers (scroll to the bottom at the link) should have a vague memory of this incident.
One bright May morning in 1977, the children of Bovendsmilde were settling down for their lessons when four South Moluccan terrorists stormed the school. Armed with submachine guns and grenades, they took 105 children and 4 teachers hostage. A short time later, just outside of town, nine heavily armed South Moluccans boarded a commuter train, taking 60 hostages. After 14 long hours, the terrorists begin issuing their political demands. As negotiations dragged on for an interminable two weeks, the Royal Dutch Marines were taking action. See how the elite counter-terrorism and commando squad used thermal imaging and listening devices to formulate a rescue plan. This double siege is the most famous mission of the Royal Dutch Marines and is still studied by counter-terrorism units worldwide as a textbook example of how to handle a hostage crisis.
This was just one of many, many terrorist incidents during the 1970s. And the number of such incidents seems to have grown with each passing decade.

What were the South Moluccans on about, anyway? Well, according to the UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and People's Organization, whose membership includes East Turkestan, Kurdistan, the Hungarian minority in Romania, and Ka Lähui Hawai‘i), they were very unhappy when the Dutch ceded sovereignty to Sukarno's Federal Republic of Indonesia in 1949, and more unhappy when Sukarno then began to turn the federal republic into a unitary state under tight Javanese control. The European Academy continues the story.
In 1950, a rebellion against the Indonesian central government broke out in the South Moluccas, calling for an independent republic. In the same year, however, the revolt was struck down. Many South Moluccans emigrated to the Netherlands, and in the 1970s tried to compel the government there to petition the Indonesian government to allow south Moluccan independence using terrorist methods.
Unfortunately for them, such methods backfired badly. In 1978, the Dutch parliament ceased to recognize the Republik Maluku Selatan (RMS) government in exile.

For a fuller understanding of the history of the South Moluccan exiles in the Netherlands, read "From Black Dutchmen to White Moluccans: Ethnic Metamorphosis of an East Indonesian Minority in the Netherlands," by Dieter Bartels. It begins thus:
After returning to Indonesia after World War II, the Dutch employed 25,000 Moluccan soldiers in their attempt to foil the movement for Indonesian Independence. With the transfer of sovereignty in 1949, 12,000 of these troops were demobilized, 6,000 were discharged, and 1,000 entered the Indonesian army (TNI). Circa 2,000 soldiers stationed in the South Moluccas became the core forces of a movement to establish an independent South Moluccan Republic, the RMS. About 4,000 others, mostly stationed on western islands, mainly on Java, refused to be mobilized or discharged anywhere but in the Moluccas or (then still) Dutch New Guinea ....

The problem was solved by "temporarily" moving the troops, and about 8,500 family members, to the Netherlands in 1951. Over 75 percent of them were Protestant Christian ethnic Ambonese from the Central Moluccan islands who were dominating the political actions of this minority. Fanatically anti-Indonesian, they were never allowed back and over the next two decades their population increased to approximately 40,000. In the late 1960s and 1970s, the Moluccan youth became restless and shocked the world with a number of spectacular acts of terrorism in futile attempts to force the Dutch to help them to return to their homeland to be freed of Indonesian rule.

No comments: