British struggle for democracy in Indonesia

UK’s propaganda leaflets inspired 1960s massacre of Indonesian communists

By Paul Lashmar, Nicholas Gilby and James Oliver
23 Jan 2022

Shocking new details have emerged of Britain’s role in one of the most brutal massacres of the postwar 20th century.

Last year the Observer revealed how British officials secretly deployed black propaganda in the 1960s to incite prominent Indonesians to “cut out” the “communist cancer”.

It is estimated that at least 500,000 people linked to the Indonesia communist party (PKI) were eliminated between 1965 and 1966.

Documents newly released in the National Archives show how propaganda specialists from the Foreign Office sent hundreds of inflammatory pamphlets to leading anti-communists in Indonesia, inciting them to kill the foreign minister Dr Subandrio and claiming that ethnic Chinese Indonesians deserved the violence meted out to them.

The British wanted the Indonesian army and militias to overthrow elected president Sukarno’s government. He and Subandrio were considered to be too close to the PKI and communist China, and Britain wanted to end Confrontation, the low-level military and political campaign launched by Sukarno and Subandrio against the Malaysian Federation.

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