Indonesia: Random Facts and Trivia

Some random facts and trivia for the country of the world Indonesia, Krakatoa volcano erupts, President Sukarno quotes, Japanese involvement, World War II.



Indonesia was not a significant military theater during W.W. II, but it was the richest prize of the Asian war and its possession a major cause of the U.S.-Japan conflict. According to Foreign Relations of the United States, published by the U.S. Department of State, American leaders decided to fight Japan (before the Pearl Harbor attack) when it became clear the Japanese would seize the Netherlands East Indies and restrict American access to the islands' vast natural resources--including oil, tin, and natural rubber.

Following Indonesian independence the nation's natural wealth continued to influence U.S. policy in Southeast Asia. In defending American support for the French War to reimpose colonial rule in Indochina, President Dwight Eisenhower said that American financial aid to the French was the "cheapest way . . . to get certain things we need from the riches of the Indonesian territory."

The Javanese dominate most spheres of Indonesian life. They not only control the Government and military but also the economy since the majority of the country's agricultural products are produced on Java.

Nine years after the military coup and anti-communist campaign, the Indonesian regime still holds some 70,000 political prisoners, most of whom have never received a trial.

Michael Rockefeller, son of the U.S. Vice-President, Nelson Rockefeller, disappeared near Agats, on the coast of West Irian, in 1961. He was there to collect primitive carvings for a New York museum. Since young Rockefeller was never seen again, and since some Irianese are cannibals, it has been speculated that he may have been eaten.

In 1971 the military commander of West Irian promised that there would be no more naked people there by 1973. He was wrong.

Teeth filing is practiced on many children in Bali. The rationale is that small teeth will ensure entry to heaven after death. People with unfiled teeth might be considered demons with great fangs and be barred from entering.

The batik method of printing cloth originated in Indonesia.

In 1883 the volcano of Krakatoa exploded, killing 35,000 people with its tidal waves and sending ashes and smoke around the globe. Krakatoa is west of Java in the Sunda Strait, but when Hollywood producers made their Cinerama epic about the explosion, they titled it Krakatoa, East of Java because it sounded more exotic.

Indonesia has probably never known a more brilliant orator than the charismatic former President, Sukarno. Here is a sampling of his thoughts:

On the east and west: "To me, both the Declaration of Independence and the Communist Manifesto contain undying truths, but the West doesn't permit a middle road. They manipulate you so you're no longer able to stay independent. To President Roosevelt's 4 freedoms I add a 5th: the freedom to be free! The West keeps threatening, 'Do you want to be dominated by the communists?' We answer, 'No . . . but neither do we want to be dominated by you!' At least Russia and China don't call us names when we smile sweetly at America. A nation engaged in surviving must take help from all sides, accept whatever is useful and throw away the rest."

On American aid: "Americans are under the impression they're saying to us, 'Here, poor, dear, poverty-stricken brother . . . have some money . . . here, poor, little underdeveloped Indonesia, we are going to give aid because we love Indonesia.' This is hypocrisy. America tolerates underdeveloped Asian countries for 2 reasons. One, we're a good market. We pay back with interest. And 2, she worries we'll turn communist. She tries to buy our loyalties. She gives bounty and plenty only because she's afraid. Then, if we don't act the way she wants, she yanks back her credit and warns, 'No more unless you behave yourself!' Manuel Quezon of the Philippines once said, 'It is better to go to hell without America than to go to heaven with her!'"

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