The sixteen years of Reformasi (Reform) in Indonesia have seen remarkable political changes as the country has moved from Suharto’s autocratic ‘New Order’ (1966-98) to full-fledged democracy. Haji Joko Widodo (Jokowi’s) recent people-power victory over former special forces general, Prabowo Subianto, in the 9 July presidential elections, has underscored the scale of this change. Sixteen years marks an era in Javanese cosmology, each eight years completing a windu cycle, a doubly auspicious moment to take stock of Indonesia’s progress. The paper assesses the contribution of the four post-Suharto presidents to the reform process with the current incumbent, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (2004-14), being seen as the least effective. B.J. Habibie’s April 1999 decentralisation legislation and Megawati Sukarnoputri’s (2001-4) introduction of direct elections for political office-holders from city mayors to the president have enabled new figures such as Jokowi to emerge from the grassroots to challenge the traditional oligarchic establishment. Although the former Surakarta mayor’s election triumph marks a turning point, the challenges for his incoming administration are huge, not least in the public health and education fields where Indonesia’s record is amongst the worst in Southeast Asia. The last part of the paper looks at the ways in which these challenges might be met, beginning with losing candidate, Prabowo’s, constitutional court appeal designed to delegitimize the election process. It also sets Jokowi’s election in a broader sweep of Javanese history looking particularly at his appeal as a Javanese ‘Just King’ or Ratu Adil.
One of the most prominent features of the Siamese invasions of the neighbouring states along the Mekong River in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was that they were always accompanied by the forced migration of local people to resettle in the Siamese-controlled area. Historians of Thailand agree that manpower control was the basic element in the formation of the traditional Siamese state and social organization. It was vital for the political and economic power of the Siamese ruling class. Though it is well-known that the war with the Burmese, which led to the fall of Ayudya in 1767, greatly weakened the manpower control system of Siam, most studies do not link the extensive removal of manpower in the neighbouring states with specific politico-economic requirements of Siam between the Thonburi and early Bangkok periods. They tend to see only the security purpose of the depopulation campaigns while their economic significance is overlooked. The successive warfare and depopulation campaigns along the trans-Mekong area in the late eighteenth-early nineteenth centuries were intended to supply manpower for Siam’s economic reconstruction and prosperity.