Six protesters and a policeman were killed in ferocious exchanges of gunfire and flaming petrol bottles on Thursday and Friday as anger spread over a new security law giving the military emergency powers. Similar demonstrations in May 1998 led to the fall of President Suharto, who ruled Indonesia for 32 years. The latest unrest comes just weeks before his successor, B J Habibie, faces a presidential election in parliament.
Around 2,000 students blocked roads, burned tyres and stoned security forces in the North Sumatran provincial capital of Medan yesterday, but they later dispersed with no reports of serious injuries. In a rare capitulation, the government announced on Friday that it would suspend endorsement of the security law until it had been "accepted by the people".
The demonstrators called on Mr Habibie to resign and accept responsibility for the deaths, but the president said he would quit only if it is demanded by parliament, which is unlikely.