Massacres of 1965-1967


The campaigns of the PKI over land, religion and cultural issues had won it many enemies throughout Indonesia, but the intensity of the killings was also a deliberate consequence of army strategy. By spreading false stories of the mutilation of the murdered generals, the army encouraged brutal retaliation against the PKI. The military also sought to engage as many people as possible in the killings in order both to spread responsibility for the massacres and to force people who had become accustomed to political caution under Guided Democracy to commit them-selves irrevocably to the anti-communist cause. People who might have been suspected of communist sympathies felt strong pressure to join in the killing to demonstrate their anti-communist credentials.

Although some observers have described the killings as a form of running amok, closer examination suggests that the killings had little to do with the amok tradition of the Malay world, in which a man who felt that his honour was irrevocably lost put his affairs in ‘order' and invited his own death by killing members of his community in a frenzied rage. By contrast, the massacres of 1965-1967 were carefully planned and intended to minimize the risk for the killers.


Further reading

Cribb, Robert, ed., The Indonesian killings of 1965-1966: studies from Java and Bali. Clayton, Vic.: Monash University Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, 1990.

Hefner, Robert W., The political economy of mountain Java: an interpretive history. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

Map number from Cribb, Historical Atlas of Indonesia (2000)


Year span

1965 - 1965