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Jakarta Post

Weekly 5: Key sites of May 1998 bloody riots

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Fri, May 23, 2014   /  10:12 am
Weekly 5: Key sites of May 1998 bloody riots

Despite the passing of 16 years, the riots that rocked Jakarta and its surrounding areas in May 1998 remain unresolved. The 1,000 innocent people who lost their lives in the tragedy serve as a reminder of the bloody days that preceded the downfall of president Soeharto.

Here are five sites across the city that played important roles in this violent period of modern history.


Trisakti University

It was the fatal shooting of four Trisakti University students that sparked the riots.

Pro-reform students had clashed with security personnel on the university'€™s campus in Grogol, West Jakarta, on May 12, 1998.

The hate quickly spread like ripples on a pond to other cities in Central Java.

The four who were killed on campus were Elang Mulia Lesmana, Heri Hartanto, Hafidin Royan and Hendriawan Sie. They were allegedly shot by soldiers, who had, ironically, been deployed to maintain security and order.

No one has ever been held accountable.

The university holds an annual commemorative event in memory of the victims and has a remembrance monument as well as a museum.

Citra Klender Mall

The day after the death of the four students, riots that were to last two days began in Jakarta.

Property owned by Chinese-Indonesians was looted and burned. Many women of Chinese-descent were raped.

The fate of shoppers in Yogya Plaza department store in Klender, East Jakarta, was a horrific tragedy: Hundreds of people, children included, were burned alive when looters set it on fire.

Today, it is business as usual at the department store, which is now called Citra Klender Mall.

The tragedy was said to have inspired a recently-released horror film.

Pondok Ranggon Cemetery

Although the victims of the May tragedy were buried far and wide, Pondok Ranggon Cemetery in East Jakarta is visited annually as it was the location for a mass grave for those that had been killed in the Yogya Plaza tragedy but were unidentifiable.

The mass grave is tidied up once a year on May before people come to pay tribute to the victims.

Legislative compound


The legislative compound was where thousands of students staged a huge demonstration on May 18-21, demanding Soeharto'€™s resignation and the reform needed to develop a true democracy. The students, who won supports from the People'€™s Consultative Assembly (MPR) and the House of Representatives (DPR), only stopped their demo on May 21, 1998 as Soeharto had stepped down.

Komnas Perempuan


Established in October 1998, just a handful of months after the riots, the independent National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) was founded to stop violence against women.

'€œWe were set up immediately after the May riots as many women had been raped,'€ Neng Dara Affiah Komnas Perempuan commissioner said recently.

The joint fact-finding team (TGPF), comprising civilians; police and military officials; and NGO representatives, found that 52 women, mostly those of Chinese descent, were victims of sexual abuse during the tragedy. However, to date, the government has not acknowledged the mass rapes and no perpetrators have been brought to trial. '€” JP

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