Indonesia's military chief promises to respect human rights

The Indonesian president's nominee for military chief pledged to lawmakers Wednesday that he would stay out of politics and protect human rights. Djoko Suyanto, nominated by President Susilo Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last month, made the remarks during a legislative hearing to assess his suitability for the job.

Most of the faction leaders in the parliament already have said said they will support Suyanto, who currently heads the air force. Indonesia's military played a key role in propping up the 32-year dictatorship of Suharto, which ended in 1998.

Since then, the force has implemented reforms, but it still plays an important behind-the-scenes role in political life. "The function of the military is to defend the country," Suyanto said. "It does not have a political function. We will continue to have internal reforms."

Suyanto also said he would keep working on ways to improve the human rights record of the force. Local and international activists have accused soldiers of abuses in Papua province and elsewhere. If Suyanto is approved, he will replace Gen. Endriartono Sutarto, who has been in the post for 3 1/2 years, reports the AP. I.L.

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