Indonesia investigating history book over 1965 coup account

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Indonesian authorities are investigating a history text book that re-examines the events that led to ex-dictator Suharto assuming power and may bring criminal charges against its authors, the attorney general's office said Wednesday.

The book has already been withdrawn from schools across the country, said Muchtar Arifin, a junior attorney general.

Gen. Suharto rose to power after an attempted coup in 1965 that he blamed on the Communist party. During his brutal rule, state propaganda and history books reflected this account and depicted him as having been forced to take over to save the country from communist ruin.

Since his downfall in 1998, local historians have publicly questioned this account.

The textbook, introduced in 2004, reflects different opinions on the coup.

Arifin said a probe had been launched into the book after complaints by unnamed people.

"We have questioned some officials and publishers," Arifin said in an interview aired on Metro TV on Wednesday.

Arifin did not rule out bringing charges of "causing disturbance among the people" against the authors.

Soon after he took power, Suharto oversaw the massacre of up to 1 million suspected communists. Leftist teachings were banned, and the families of people branded communists were closely watched.

The probe into the history books is a likely reflection of the influence Suharto still has among Indonesia's political and military elite, many of whom owe their positions to the ex-dictator.

Education Minister Bambang Sudibyo said courts had proven that Communist party members were involved in the coup and that this fact must be reflected in any replacement for the withdrawn text.

"We must use the law as our guide when establishing the history curriculum," he said.

The ban on Communist teachings remains in place and its specter is still regularly invoked as a threat to the country by military generals and right-wing Muslim groups.

Historians say even if there was the political will to find out what happened in 1965 the truth will likely never be known because many of the actors have died or were killed at the time.

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