Contents>> Vol. 6, No. 3
G30S dan Asia: Dalam bayang-bayang Perang Dingin [The September 30, 1965 coup and Asia, under the shadows of the Cold War]
Kurasawa Aiko and Matsumura Toshio, eds.
Jakarta: Penerbit Buku Kompas, 2016, xxvi+308pp.
Similar to Thailand’s October 6, 1976 massacre, Indonesia’s September 30, 1965 coup (and the subsequent massacre) is still a difficult and sensitive issue to discuss in public. Those who were involved in the event are not pleased with the ongoing campaign for an official apology from the Indonesian government, and the issue of reconciliation is still controversial and has not been well received by all parties. Meanwhile, scholarly studies have progressed since 1998 as a number of victims/survivors have written memoirs and testimonies (see Hearman 2009; Sukanta 2011; 2013). They form a narrative that was absent (or muted) during the New Order regime (1967–98) and thus have offered different perspectives on what happened. Related to this, two documentary films on the subject of the 1965–66 massacre directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, Jagal (The act of killing, in 2012) and Senyap (The look of silence, in 2014), have garnered international attention.
Using a different approach, some scholars have tried to bring public attention to the international context of the 1965 coup and the political situation of the Cold War period (see, for example, Schaefer and Wardaya 2013). They argue that the 1965 coup was not a separate event but closely related to world politics, with Indonesia (under Soekarno) being a major player on the regional scene and among the newly independent countries in Asia and Africa. G30S dan Asia: Dalam bayang-bayang Perang Dingin (hereinafter, G30S dan Asia) is an important contribution to this literature. More important, it has been published in Indonesian, primarily targeting an Indonesian readership.
G30S dan Asia consists of nine chapters and one personal story. The chapters are grouped into two parts. Part 1 consists of four chapters, each discussing the 1965 coup in relation to the political situation of different Asian countries: the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Taiwan, Japan, and Malaysia (in particular, the Sarawak independence movement). Taomo Zhou contributes an interesting chapter on the PRC’s view of the 1965 coup, based on her archival research of the PRC’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ documents. It is an important study that questions the long-held myth about the involvement of the PRC in the 1965 coup. Baba Kimihiko discusses the political situation of the time and the complexity of the PRC’s and Taiwan’s attitudes toward Indonesian Chinese. Kurasawa Aiko discusses Japan’s changing position toward Soekarno (and Indonesia in general) after the 1965 coup. Interestingly, in the conclusion, she notes that Japan (through its diplomatic mission in Jakarta) might have known about the 1965–66 massacre (especially in Kediri and Bali) but opted to stay silent (“menutup mulut”) (p. 137). Matsumura Toshio discusses the Sarawak independence movement, as part of the anti-British colonial movement in Borneo, in the aftermath of the 1965 coup. For Indonesian readers, his study helps clarify the issue of the “Communist” guerrilla movement in Borneo.
Part 2 consists of five chapters, each discussing the 1965 coup from the newspaper reports of individual countries in the region: the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, the PRC, and Japan. Hayase Shinzo analyzes the reports of the Manila Times (The Philippines) on the 1965 coup. Tanaka Yuichiro and Kwon Sohyun examine the Rodong Shinmun (North Korea), Choson Sinbo (the newspaper of the North Korean association in Japan), and Chosun Ilbo (South Korea) on their reports about Indonesia and the 1965 coup in particular. Fujikura Tetsuro examines the Nhan Dan, the newspaper organ of the Communist Party of Vietnam, from September 1, 1965 to March 31, 1966. Baba looks at the Renmin Ribao (人民日报), an organ of the Chinese Communist Party, and the Beijing Zhoubao (北京周报), a weekly news magazine. Finally, Kurasawa reads three Japanese newspapers: Asahi Shimbun (朝日新聞), Yomiuri Shimbun (読売新聞), and Mainichi Shimbun (毎日新聞), and one popular weekly magazine, the Shukan Gendai (週刊現代). Although each chapter of this part is stand-alone and can be read individually, as a whole the chapters show how the general public in the region was informed about the 1965 coup. There are different degrees of quality (and detailed information) of the reportage in each country’s newspapers, which depended on the access members of the press had. Kurasawa notes that the Asahi Shimbun and Akahata (赤旗), the daily organ of the Japanese Communist Party, had an office in Jakarta, and the Yomiuri Shimbun and Mainichi Shimbun were able to send their correspondents to enter Jakarta (p. 275). This gave them direct access and enabled them to record what they saw, heard, and collected during the time and thus made their reportage more detailed and up-to-date.
The last eight pages of G30S dan Asia (pp. 292–299) present the personal recollections of Gatot Wilotikto, who was in Pyongyang (North Korea) as a student when the 1965 coup took place. He was the only Indonesian student in North Korea after 1970 as others had migrated to the PRC and USSR (Russia).
With the exception of Zhou, who is currently a fellow at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, all contributors are Japan-based scholars. It should be noted that there is a growing collaboration among Japan-based scholars of Southeast Asian studies (and Indonesian studies, in particular), in various research projects under the Japanese Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (kaken-hi), to better research and understand the region. Southeast Asian studies is still growing in Japan (in contrast to other places that are currently facing limited institutional support due to budget cuts), and young scholars are encouraged to contribute their research and expertise in many different fields and in national/local/vernacular languages in the region, not solely in English. As such, this book illustrates how (foreign) scholars can help initiate, facilitate, and foster fruitful dialogues, including on topics that are still controversial, as part of their common interest to develop an active network of communities of learners in the region.
G30S dan Asia is an interesting volume that opens up a new field of study on the 1965 coup in the context of international politics in the region, under the Cold War situation. It is a must-read volume for every young Indonesian to look into and understand his/her nation’s troubled history beyond the official narrative.
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Tokyo
Hearman, Vanessa. 2009. The Uses of Memoirs and Oral History Works in Researching the 1965–66 Political Violence in Indonesia. International Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies 5(2): 21–42.
Schaefer, Bernd; and Wardaya, Baskara, eds. 2013. 1965: Indonesia and the World. Jakarta: Gramedia Pustaka Utama.
Sukanta, Putu Oka, ed. 2013. Sulawesi bersaksi: Tuturan penyintas tragedi 1965 [Sulawesi witnesses: Narrations as told by survivors of the 1965 tragedy]. Jakarta: Lembaga Kreatifitas Kemanusiaan and TAPOL.
―, ed. 2011. Memecah pembisuan: Tuturan penyintas tragedi ’65–’66 [Breaking the silence: Narrations as told by survivors of the 1965–66 tragedy]. Jakarta: Lembaga Kreatifitas Kemanusiaan, ICTJ, and Yayasan TIFA.