JAKARTA • Indonesia's Defence Minister said yesterday that suspected communists killed in 1960s military-backed massacres "deserved to die", as a backlash mounts against efforts to resolve one of the darkest chapters in the country's history.
Ex-general Ryamizard Ryacudu made the comments to a gathering of former military figures and nationalist groups convened in response to moves by the government to come to terms with the mass killings.
Rights groups have called for an official apology for the massacres, in which at least 500,000 people died, but Mr Ryacudu noted that United States President Barack Obama did not say sorry for the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima on a recent trip to Japan.
"Millions of people died because of the bomb, and that was war," he said, adding that those killed in the 1960s massacres had mounted an "uprising" so they "deserved to die".
The massacres began after General Suharto put down a coup blamed on communists in 1965, and over several months, local militias backed by the military carried out one of the worst mass killings of the 20th century. Mr Suharto rose to power on the back of the bloodshed, and during his 32-year rule it was presented as necessary to rid the country of communism, debating the killings publicly was taboo, and no one was ever held to account.
In April the government backed for the first time a series of discussions into the killings and announced it would exhume sites that activists say are mass graves.