Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Featured Advance Book Release: “Alamein: a Trooper...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Featured Advance Book Release: “Alamein: a Trooper...: Featured Advance Book Release: “Alamein: a Trooper's Tale” Author: Don Trotman Memoir ISBN-13: 978-1-925230-23-9   RR...

Featured Advance Book Release: “Alamein: a Trooper's Tale”


Featured Advance Book Release: “Alamein: a Trooper's Tale”

Author: Don Trotman

Memoir

ISBN-13: 978-1-925230-23-9

 

RRP $24.95

Sid Harta Publishers, Melbourne Australia

 

 

As our two jeeps turned the corner of the fort, we found ourselves looking up at three large eight-wheeler German armoured cars, not ten yards away, their 20mm guns trained on us. At the same instant, a clear voice, with a slightly American accent, called, “Put your hands up, boys!”
Don Trotman was witness to and participant in one of the most significant events of World War Two — the turning of the tide against the forces of Nazi Germany in the second battle of El Alamein in Egypt. He was subsequently ambushed by the Afrika Korps and shipped off to German-occupied Europe as a prisoner of war.
This engaging and warm memoir recounts his many adventures during the war.

 

 

Author bio

After a few months pen pushing back at the Admiralty, I became bored, and being a keen amateur photographer, I resigned from the Admiralty and found a job with a photographic studio.
The Australian Government was advertising for ex-servicemen to emigrate to Australia, so I applied at Australia House in London, and in early 1948 I was on the boat to Sydney. There I worked as a photographer with Dayne Studio until 1952, when I married Pamela, a Queenslander, and jointly set up a photographic studio in Brisbane. We had four adopted children.
Encouraged by an architect friend, I took a six year evening course while working in the daytime in architects’ offices. I became a registered architect in January, 1966.
I’m a railway fan from school days, a keen photographer, have been the president of Kingston School for Seniors for eight years, and a life member of Kingston Mens’ Probus Club.

 

 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia arrests more than a dozen in pre-Christm...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia arrests more than a dozen in pre-Christm...:   JAKARTA: More than a dozen people have been arrested by Indonesian anti-terrorism police, authorities said on Monday, as they beef ...

Indonesia arrests more than a dozen in pre-Christmas terror sweep


 

JAKARTA: More than a dozen people have been arrested by Indonesian anti-terrorism police, authorities said on Monday, as they beef up security in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Police said they detained 13 suspected militants in separate, pre-emptive raids over the weekend across the Southeast Asian nation, which has long struggled with Islamic militancy.

The arrests took place in South Sumatra, East Java and West Kalimantan over the weekend.

One of the men arrested in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-biggest city, was known to have gone to Syria in 2013 and has links to Abu Jandal, an influential Indonesian militant who fought with the Islamic State group in the Middle Eastern country, authorities said.

Another suspect was involved in a February terror attack in the Indonesian city of Bandung, where a pressure cooker bomb exploded in a park before a gun battle erupted nearby, leaving one militant dead.

Indonesia’s anti-terror squad can detain and hold suspected extremists for seven days without charge.

Indonesia has suffered a string of deadly incidents, including a Christmas Eve attack in 2000 that left 18 dead and scores injured.

In 2002, a bomb in a Bali nightclub killed over 200 people while, more recently, a suicide bombing and gun attack claimed by IS in the capital Jakarta killed eight people in January 2016. AFP

 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Nuclear-capable Russian Tu-95 bombers in 1st-ever ...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Nuclear-capable Russian Tu-95 bombers in 1st-ever ...: Nuclear-capable Russian Tu-95 bombers in 1st-ever Pacific patrol from Indonesia’s West New Guinea https://www.rt.com/news/412367-rus...

Nuclear-capable Russian Tu-95 bombers in 1st-ever Pacific patrol from Indonesia’s West New Guinea


Nuclear-capable Russian Tu-95 bombers in 1st-ever Pacific patrol from Indonesia’s West New Guinea


 From Kerry Collison, Jakarta Correspondent DEFENSE & FOREIGN AFFAIRS STRATEGIC POLICY WASHINGTON.  Contact Melbourne 0408537792

Published time: 7 Dec, 2017 19:43 Edited time: 7 Dec, 2017 21:32

 

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A pair of Russian Tu-95MS strategic bombers has flown a maiden patrol mission over the South Pacific from a military base in Indonesia. Crew and support staff had to deal with an unfamiliar tropical environment to successfully navigate and complete the mission.

The two Tupolev bombers, which can carry nuclear weapons, flew Tuesday from Ukrainka Airfield in Russia’s eastern Amur region to the Biak Airbase in Indonesia’s easternmost Papua province. The almost 7,000km flight with mid-course in-flight refueling took about 10 hours, which was longer than the pilots expected. Bad weather prompted several changes in their flight course, they told journalists.

A pair of Ilyushin Il-76MD military transport planes had arrived at the site a day ahead, carrying equipment and support crews. The mission, it turned out Thursday, was more than just a social visit to Indonesia. The Tu-95s, known as “Bears” in the West, flew a patrol mission over the southern Pacific before returning to the Indonesian base. The patrol was the first of its kind for the Russian Air Forces and was without incident, despite the persistently difficult weather conditions in the region.

“The goal of the flights is to train pilots in navigating in the southern hemisphere as well as confirm the reliability of the control systems. The support logistics of the Biak Airfield was also confirmed during the mission. The planes were prepared for the patrol on schedule,” said Lt. Gen. Sergey Kobylash, commander of the Air Forces’ Long Range Aviation division.

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Military officials confirmed that the equipment proved to operate adequately in the hot and humid climate of Indonesia. The hosting country also shouldered its part of the joint mission, including fueling the Russian bombers and hosting the visiting Russian military contingent, the general added. Some 110 Russians arrived in Indonesia for the patrol, with Indonesian military officials saying the visit was part of a navigation exercise and will last until Saturday, the Jakarta Post newspaper reported.

Indonesia was a key partner of the former Soviet Union in the early ‘60s, but relations between them soured when anti-communist sentiment in Indonesia escalated into a wide-scale US-supported purge, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 500,000 supporters of the Indonesian Communist Party. Moscow and Jakarta reestablished ties in the last years of the USSR and became close partners in arms trade in the mid-2000s.

The Indonesian military, currently, has a number of high-tech Russian military hardware in service, including Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 fighter jets, Mil Mi-17 and Mi-24 helicopters and BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles. Moscow and Jakarta are currently negotiating a contract for Su-35 fighters, which, if signed, will make Indonesia the second country after China to acquire the advanced Russian aircraft.

 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Russian military personnel arrive in WEST PAPUA TO...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Russian military personnel arrive in WEST PAPUA TO...:   Jayapura, Papua | Tue, December 5, 2017 | 05:45 pm A Russian Ilyushin-76 transport plane lands at Franz Kaisiepo Airport in Biak...

Russian military personnel arrive in WEST PAPUA TO BOLSTER JAKARTA’S HOLD OVER THE PROVINCE


 

Jayapura, Papua | Tue, December 5, 2017 | 05:45 pm

A Russian Ilyushin-76 transport plane lands at Franz Kaisiepo Airport in Biak, Papua on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. The plane carried Russian personnel, who will be in Biak from Dec. 4 to 9 .

 

Two Russian Ilyushin-76 strategic airlifters carrying 81 military personnel arrived at Frans Kaisiepo Airport in Biak regency, Papua on Monday and early Tuesday for exercises.

Manuhua Biak Airport spokesperson First Lieutenant Putukade Wempy said the military personnel would be in Biak from Dec. 4 to 9.

"They will only stay in Biak. They won't go anywhere else,” he told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

Besides the two planes that have already arrived, Wempy said they expected two Tupelov TU-95 bomber planes. When they arrived, there would be a total of 110 Russian military personnel in Biak.

Manuhua Biak Air commander Col. Fajar Adriyanto told reporters that the arrival of the planes was part of a collaboration between the Indonesian Military (TNI) and its Russian counterpart that included choosing Biak as the exercise location.

The planes flew directly from Russia in 12 hours.

The Russian planes are not equipped with radar, ammunition, or cameras as the navigation exercises would only consist of checking the accuracy of long-distance flying over the seas, he said.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia’s Armed Forces’Role In Counterterrorism:...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia’s Armed Forces’Role In Counterterrorism:...: Indonesia’s Armed Forces’Role In Counterterrorism: Impact On Military Reform – Analysis Lawmakers in Indonesia are currently revising...

Indonesia’s Armed Forces’Role In Counterterrorism: Impact On Military Reform – Analysis


Indonesia’s Armed Forces’Role In Counterterrorism: Impact On Military Reform – Analysis

Lawmakers in Indonesia are currently revising an existing anti-terrorism law. The proposed legislation will give TNI, the Indonesian armed forces, a more direct role in combatting terrorism. This may pose a hurdle to continued military reform.

Indonesian lawmakers are currently deliberating revisions to an existing anti-terrorism law which appears insufficient in facing the threat of Islamic State (IS). One of the main points debated in the terrorism bill is the role of the Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) in counterterrorism.

According to existing law, the TNI is only allowed to assist counterterrorism operations under the command of the Indonesian National Police (POLRI). The new bill allows for certain conditions under which the TNI may assume a more active role, rather than serving only as an Auxiliary Support Force (BOK).

Generals Back More Authority

The process of revising the anti-terrorism law has been underway for more than a year and the final draft is expected to be ready for a vote at year’s end. One of the points that has prolonged the discussion is the role of the TNI in counterterrorism. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo began advocating a more active role for TNI after a twin suicide bombing struck a bus terminal in Kampung Melayu, East Jakarta in May 2017. The attack killed three police officers.

A number of current and former military generals, many of whom serve in important posts in the government, have emphasised the importance of the TNI’s role in counterterrorism. The TNI commander, Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo, has argued forcefully that terrorism must not be treated as a crime but as a threat to state security. He asserted the impending danger of a “proxy war” where subversive foreign agents will infiltrate Indonesia in a variety of ways, including exploiting the threat of terrorism.

Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, a retired general, has further asserted that combatting terrorism should not be the exclusive purview of just one agency, as they will be insufficient to the task. This statement might suggest a rebuke of POLRI as they are at the forefront of counterterrorism measures in Indonesia.

TNI’s Direct Role in Counterterrorism?

Another retired general, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Wiranto argued that the TNI should be given a direct role and no longer work as BOK, playing a supporting function. He believed regulations pertaining to TNI involvement in counterterrorism operations should be simplified and made less burdensome so that when the need arises, appropriate forces can be deployed quickly and effectively.

As these generals hold important positions in the defence and security sectors, their opinions about the proper role of the TNI in counterterrorism carry significant weight. However, there is also a base of public support for their ideas.

According to a survey done by Kompas, a leading daily, 93% of respondents supported the TNI having some role in counterterrorism, while 38% supported the idea of TNI autonomy in combating terrorism. More than half or 55% percent of respondents believe the TNI should remain under the command of POLRI, although the number who support autonomy is still significant.

TNI’s Expanded Role: Inevitable?

A coalition of civil society groups has been strongly opposed to the TNI’s expanded involvement in counterterrorism for fear of human rights abuses and the potential erosion of civilian control of the military. Yet the legislation continues to march forward, with lawmakers confident that the new bill will soon be finalised.

The House’s committee chairman on the anti-terrorism bill, Muhammad Syafi’I, has ensured the public that despite this expansion of TNI authority, Indonesia is committed to the rule of law and that law enforcement will remain the responsibility of POLRI.

The revised legislation will first establish that the TNI is no longer limited to serving in a BOK or auxiliary capacity. The exact conditions under which and in what manner the TNI should be given a direct role in counterterrorism will be clarified after the bill is ratified using Peraturan Presiden (Presidential Regulation).

Jokowi will consult with the House of Representatives (DPR) on the terms before issuing the Regulation. This should grant him sufficient leeway to bypass their approval in the future should it be necessary to rapidly deploy the TNI in response to a terror attack.

Challenges Ahead

The main concern over the TNI’s expanded involvement is that it will hinder the ongoing process of military reform. Efforts to reform the military in Indonesia have stressed the division of duties and responsibilities between the TNI and POLRI.

Under this arrangement, the TNI’s main task has been to protect the nation from external threats while POLRI’s has been maintaining internal security and order. The TNI’s active role in counterterrorism could blur this dividing line and presage a return to the political culture of the New Order, when the military had an internal security role.

One potential benefit of the proposed new arrangement is that the Army (TNI AD), the most dominant service, could use its advantage in intelligence-gathering and guerrilla warfare to combat terrorism. However, this has the potential to further entrench the Army as the most dominant service and allow its territorial command structure – which many observers consider problematic – to remain untouched by reforms.

Indonesia is striving for a more balanced armed forces, and has laid out plans for key doctrines such as Minimum Essential Force (MEF) and Global Maritime Fulcrum (GMF) which would direct additional resources to both the Navy (TNI AL) and the Air Force (TNI AU). However, if the Army begins to play a more outsized role in monitoring and combatting terrorism, the defence budget allocation for TNI AD will likely increase at the expense of the other services.

Additionally, the territorial command structure – which mirrors the civilian structure of governance and creates opportunities for political transactions during local elections – has long been the target of military reform efforts. With an expanded role in internal security, the Army will likely be able to fend off these efforts by claiming the structure is necessary to combat terrorism.

Given all this, Indonesia must sustain its efforts toward military reform. TNI AL and TNI AU should continue receiving additional resources to raise their profiles and develop a balanced armed forces that can address threats from air, land and sea – especially considering the intensifying danger of transboundary terrorism. It is important that Indonesia remains wary of involving the TNI too much in the preservation of internal security, even in the interest of national security.

*Chaula Anindya is a Research Analyst with the Indonesia Programme S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Sydney Morning Herald Book Review

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Sydney Morning Herald Book Review: Sydney Morning Herald Book Review “Rockefeller & the Demise of Ibu Pertiwi review: Mystery and politics in W Papua” Cameron Wo...

Sydney Morning Herald Book Review


Sydney Morning Herald Book Review

“Rockefeller & the Demise of Ibu Pertiwi review: Mystery and politics in W Papua”

  • Cameron Woodhead

Rockefeller & the Demise of Ibu Pertiwi

Kerry B. Collison

Sid Harta, $24.95

Kerry B. Collison brings a deep knowledge of Indonesian history and politics to his latest novel. Using as a hook the mysterious disappearance of Michael C. Rockefeller in 1961, the novel soon immerses us in a multi-faceted history of West Papua (Irian Jaya), a former Dutch colony annexed by Indonesia in the 1960s. It's a geopolitical thriller that includes every conceivable perspective and stakeholder, from remote mountain villages to the United Nation, from international mining companies and the Indonesian military to the Papuan independence movement. Rockefeller's vanishing gets an imaginative explanation, as events conspire to ignite the possibility of war between Australia and Indonesia (in a case of East Timor revisited on a larger scale) over the question of self-determination. Perhaps a touch scattered as fiction, but sure to intrigue anyone interested in geopolitical strategy and the history of our region

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: ARCHIPELAGIC SEA-LANES IN INDONESIA – THEIR LEGALI...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: ARCHIPELAGIC SEA-LANES IN INDONESIA – THEIR LEGALI...: ARCHIPELAGIC SEA-LANES IN INDONESIA – THEIR LEGALITY IN INTERNATIONAL LAW Chris Forward *     Introduction In May 1996, Indo...

ARCHIPELAGIC SEA-LANES IN INDONESIA – THEIR LEGALITY IN INTERNATIONAL LAW


ARCHIPELAGIC SEA-LANES IN INDONESIA – THEIR LEGALITY IN INTERNATIONAL LAW

Chris Forward*

 

 Introduction

In May 1996, Indonesia submitted the first (and only) proposal for the designation of three Archipelagic Sea Lanes (ASLs) within its archipelago to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The IMO has claimed the mandate of being the ‘competent international organisation’ referred to in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC)1 for designating ASLs.2 After significant protests from major maritime countries including Australia and the United States (a prominent non-signatory to the LOSC),3 the IMO declared Indonesia’s submission a ‘partial designation’ of ASLs.4 This has provided maritime countries a significant victory as the declaration has rendered the Indonesian ASLs practically useless because because there is no compulsion for maritime countries to use them. Maritime countries, through their influence over the IMO, have maintained almost complete and unfettered access for shipping within the archipelagic waters of Indonesia. This paper examines the Indonesian submission to determine the validity of the IMO’s declaration at international law. Specifically, it examines the authority of the IMO as a self professed ‘competent international organisation’, the role it has undertaken in the process, and the legality of its determination that Indonesia’s ASL submission was a ‘partial declaration’.

This paper makes three assertions. First, despite claims to the contrary,5 the LOSC is not a universal codification of the law of the sea nor is it a ‘Constitution for the Oceans’.6 It is a fundamental treaty which numerous states are bound to adhere through being signatories. However, numerous important non-signatories, the significant quantity of declarations on the interpretation of its provisions and the failure of the treaty to declare its jurisdiction over non-signatories mean the treaty is not a full embodiment of universally applicable customary law. The LOSC has universal application where it can be shown that it codifies existing customary law. However, the treaty has introduced significant new concepts such as the archipelagic state, archipelagic sea-lane passage (ASLP) and ASLs. To be universally applicable (that is applicable to all states, including non-signatories), it must be demonstrated that the international legal concepts pioneered by LOSC have been accepted as representing customary international law.7 This paper argues that as there has been no complete implementation of the process for designating ASLs through the process designated by the LOSC, the process cannot be accepted as valid international customary law. Therefore the process is only binding on countries who are party to the treaty. Secondly, in the absence of being specifically named in the LOSC treaty, the IMO must show it has been recognised as having the mandate as the ‘competent maritime authority’ to designate ASLs.8 It is argued that the IMO does not have this mandate yet, despite its declaration to the contrary. Finally, the paper analyses the conduct of the IMO in its consideration of Indonesia’s submission for recognition of ASLs within its territory and specifically the legality of its declaration of the submission as being a ‘partial submission’.


 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia boosts its air and sea denial capabiliti...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia boosts its air and sea denial capabiliti...:   Indonesia was reported to be among the countries that expressed interest in the Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic cruise missile at ...

Indonesia boosts its air and sea denial capabilities


 

Indonesia was reported to be among the countries that expressed interest in the Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic cruise missile at the recent Dubai Air Show. Under its Minimum Essential Force program, Jakarta aims to improve air and sea denial capacities, with a primary focus on anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare in coastal waters.

The Indonesian military expansion is coming amid escalating tensions with China over a contested area around the Natuna Islands, which belong to the Southeast Asian country.

Bottom of Form

Missiles, frigates and subs

Jakarta’s arsenal of anti-ship missiles is already quite robust. It includes the French MM-38 and MM-40 Exocet, the Russian SSC-3 Styx and SS-N-26 Yakhont, and the Chinese C-802. BrahMos would be a pretty notable addition to Indonesia’s missile forces, as it is one of the world’s fastest anti-ship and land-attack cruise projectiles.

BrahMos can be fired from ships, submarines and ground-based platforms. A variant for the Su-30 MKI fighter is set to be tested for the first time, according to Indian media reports.

Frigates and submarines are the other two pillars of Indonesia’s planned sea denial architecture

Frigates and submarines are the other two pillars of Indonesia’s planned sea denial architecture. On October 30, the second of two Sigma 10514 PKR guided-missile frigates was delivered to Jakarta by local shipbuilder PT Pal and Dutch defense contractor Damen. The Sigma 10514 PKR frigate is a multi-role vessel that can be used for patrol missions in the country’s economic exclusive zone (EEZ), as well as for anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare and maritime security.

The Indonesian navy has also delayed the decommissioning of its Ahmad Yani-class frigates. A number of them will be sent to the Natuna Sea before the deployment of Sigma 10514 PKR frigates is completed.

As well, Indonesia received a Type 209 Chang Bogo-class attack submarine in August. The first of three vessels ordered in 2011, it was built by South Korean defense firm DSME. Jakarta plans to construct a fleet of 10 to 12 multipurpose submarines capable of operating in shallow (“green”) and blue waters alike.

As far as air defense is concerned, Indonesia recently finalized the acquisition of a complete NASAMS medium-range air defense system from Norwegian manufacturer Kongsberg. The ground-based platform will have to be equipped with US-made Raytheon AIM-120 missiles.

Indonesia currently relies on short-range surface-to-air missiles like the Swiss-manufactured Oerlikon Skyshield system. NASAMS will be deployed to protect the country’s capital city, but it could also be stationed to defend military installations on the Natuna islands.

Changing posture

Indonesia is an archipelago nation of about 18,000 islands. In July, Jakarta renamed the northern portion of its EEZ in the South China Sea as “North Natuna Sea.” This move drew a harsh response from Beijing, which disputes Indonesian claims to the waters surrounding the Natuna Islands.

The Natunas do not fall within China’s “Nine Dash Line,” which delineates the Asian giant’s claims to the South China Sea. However, Beijing lays claim to waters north of these Indonesian islands. The area is a rich fishing ground and is believed to have abundant oil and natural gas reserves.

To counter Chinese territorial demands, the Indonesian government is building up air and naval facilities on the Natuna Islands. Last year, Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said his country would ramp up defenses around the Natunas by deploying warships, F-16 fighters, surface-to-air missiles, drones and a radar. In support of military activities on the Natunas, the Indonesian air force has also proposed developing an air base on Batam island, 20 kilometers off Singapore’s southern coast.

Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesia’s maritime affairs and fisheries minister, said last month that her country would have to reinforce naval defenses against illegal fishing by foreign-flagged ships. Poaching cases in Natuna waters have multiplied in recent years. Notably, the constant presence of Chinese fishing boats, supported by their country’s coast guard, has strained relations between Indonesia and the Asian powerhouse – Jakarta and Beijing had three naval skirmishes last year.

Indonesia has maintained a low profile in the South China Sea until recently. Now, while Vietnam and the Philippines have softened their opposition to Chinese territorial demands (which have also been rejected by an international tribunal), Jakarta has become more assertive in safeguarding its maritime interests.

The Indonesian military build-up in the region bordering the South China Sea can be viewed mostly as geopolitical posturing. Jakarta wants to send a message to Beijing that it will defend its sovereign rights. But only strategic cooperation with regional and non-regional actors wary of China’s military expansion will give teeth to Jakarta to face Chinese pressure on the (North) Natuna Sea.

By Emanuele Scimia November 20,

 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia's Orang Rimba: Forced to renounce their ...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia's Orang Rimba: Forced to renounce their ...: Indonesia's Orang Rimba: Forced to renounce their faith The Sumatran rainforests of Indonesia are home to the Orang Rimba - the p...

Indonesia's Orang Rimba: Forced to renounce their faith


Indonesia's Orang Rimba: Forced to renounce their faith

The Sumatran rainforests of Indonesia are home to the Orang Rimba - the people of the jungle. Their faith and nomadic way of life are not recognised by the state and, as their forests are destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations, many are being forced to convert to Islam to survive.

In a wooden hut on stilts, a group of children dressed in white sit on the floor. They sing "I will protect Islam till I die" and shout "There is no god but Allah", in unison.

Three months ago, the 58 families that make up the Celitai tribe of Orang Rimba converted to Islam. They were picked up and bussed into Jambi, the nearest city, and given clothes and prayer mats.ago

The Islamic Defenders Front - a vigilante group whose leader is facing charges of inciting religious violence - helped facilitate the conversion.

Ustad Reyhan, from the Islamic missionary group Hidayatullah, has stayed to make sure the new faith is practised.

"For now we are focusing on the children. It's easier to convert them - their mind isn't filled with other things. With the older ones it's harder," he says.

"Before Islam they just believed in spirits, gods and goddesses, not the supreme god Allah.

"When someone died, they didn't even bury the dead, they just would leave the body in the forest. Now their life has meaning and direction.

"[Before] they lived in the forest. They just lived for each day, each moment. When they died, they died. But now they have a religion, they know there is an afterlife."

'No choice'

But village leader Muhammad Yusuf - Yuguk, to use his Orang Rimba name - was thinking about surviving in this life when he converted.
"It was a very heavy and difficult decision, but we feel like we have no choice, if we want to move forward," he says quietly.
"So that our children can have the same opportunities as the outsiders, the people of the light, we had no other choice. We had to all convert to Islam." decision to convert to Islam was difficult

Outsiders are the "people of the light", because they live in open areas and are often in the sun, unlike the people of the jungle.

The surrounding majority Muslim population calls the Orang Rimba "Kubu".

"It means that they are very dirty, they are garbage, you can't even look because it is so disgusting," explains anthropologist Butet Manurung, who has lived with the Orang Rimba for many years.

"It also means primitive, stupid, bad smelling - basically pre-human. People say their evolution is not complete."

It's thought there are about 3,000 Orang Rimba living in central Sumatra.

"If you came before, you would have seen our forest. It was pristine, with huge trees," says Yusuf

Now there are seemly endless ghostly white burnt-out sticks in one direction, and palm oil trees in neat rows in the other.

The absence of any natural sounds is eerie.

"It's all gone. It happened just in the last few years. The palm plantations came in, and then the forest started to burn," adds Yusuf, referring to 2015's devastating fires, which burnt more than 21,000 sq km of forest and peat land.

Half a million people were affected by the toxic haze from the fires and dozens died from breathing problems.
"I was terrified. We were so scared of the flames and smoke all around us," Yusuf tells me.
His tribe ran to the nearest village to escape and this was where the conversion process started.

Endangered population

"After a while, we wanted to send our children to school, but the teacher wanted to see their birth certificates, and for that you have to have a state religion that the government recognises.
"So we had a tribal meeting, and discussed what religion we would choose, and decided to choose Islam," says Yusuf.
Indonesia - the world's largest Muslim country - officially recognises six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.
Indigenous rights bodies are fighting to get recognition for the hundreds of other faiths practised across Indonesia.
The country's constitutional court recently ruled in their favour, finding that it was against the constitution to force people to state a religion.
Rukka Sombolinggi, head of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago, has been a key figure in this fight.
"We have been around before the new religions arrived, but now it's like they rule us, and want to clean us from
this country. We have to fight back," she says.
She says the Orang Rimba are one of the most endangered indigenous tribes in Indonesia.
"They reached the point of complete hopelessness and saw that embracing one of the official religions would probably help them come out of this very bad situation. It is a matter of survival."

'No space to live'

I experienced a sense of the discrimination towards Orang Rimba, when I met a remote tribe still practising this nomadic, polytheistic way of life.
We were eating with them in the jungle when a police officer and local government officials arrived and asked what we were doing and if we had permits.
Our Orang Rimba guide Miyak was visibly upset, and asked why such documents would be necessary on his own land.
"We have no space to live. We are always told we are nomadic people with no religion, no culture," he told me.
"Our religion is not respected. The government is always insisting that we convert and live in houses in one place. We can't do that. Our way of life is not like that.culture and religion are not respected by the wider population
"Why you are making our lives so difficult?" he asked the officials.
The officer, Budi Jayapura, took me aside to check my documents and said: "We need to watch over them.
"They don't understand the concept of stealing. They say the fruit grew by itself on the tree so it can be taken, but it was planted by someone. Maybe in their belief system it is OK, but not in our society."

The pig problem

The fact that they hunt and eat wild pigs also creates social tensions, he added.
"This is a Muslim community. If they see the pig's blood and the leftover bits, they are disturbed," the officer explained.
What is taboo, or haram, for the Orang Rimba directly contrasts with what Muslims eat, explains Mr Manurung.
"Orang Rimba will not eat domesticated animals such as chickens, cows or sheep. They think it's a form of betrayal. You feed the animal, and when it gets fat you eat it. The fair thing to do is to fight. Whoever wins can eat the loser."
This clash of cultures began in the 1980s, when then-President Suharto gave land and incentives to migrants from overcrowded Java to move and open up the jungles of Sumatra.
Since then, vast areas of forests, traditionally home to the Orang Rimba, have been handed out to palm oil, rubber and pulp and paper companies without compensation to the indigenous tribes.
Zulkarnai, a Ministry of Forestry official, who helped facilitate the mass conversion of the Celitai tribe, admits that as a child, he thought the Orang Rimba weren't human.
"One day a 'Kubu' child stole fruit from one of my neighbours, and he shot him. We went over to the body, and I realised it wasn't a kind of animal, it was a human, just like us.
"I realised that we have to help them. I feel sorry for them. They will starve if they don't change."
In the last decades, millions of hectares of rainforest have been cleared in Indonesia, in what some studies call the world's fastest rate of deforestation.

Polluted land

New palm oil plantations have been increasing at a rate of between 300,000 and 500,000 hectares per year for the past 10 years.
In the last 30-odd years, more than half of Sumatra's forests have disappeared, replaced by monoculture palm oil plantations.
Sigungang's family lives on a palm oil plantation. He tries to hunt wild pigs when they come.
"But if we can't find anything, we are forced to eat palm oil fruit. It makes your head spin," he says.to find anything to hunt after his tribe's forest was cleared

The streams in the plantation are polluted with pesticide and his family is getting stomach problems drinking from it.

"There is no forest for them to hunt in, the water they fished in and drank from is polluted, and so is the air," says social affairs minister Khofifah Parawansa, matter-of-factly. "So we are giving them houses, villages to live in."

The government - working with plantation companies - has built a number of housing estates for the Orang Rimba.

Last year, President Joko Widodo announced more new housing and some land for them, following a meeting with tribal leaders - the first organised by an Indonesian head of state.

Minister Khofifah says faith is part of this process.

"On the identity card, they have to state what religion they have. There are those that have become Muslims, some who have become Christians. So now they are getting to know God."

But many of the housing estates have failed and are effectively ghost towns.

Without work or a way to feed their family, many Orang Rimba who lived in them briefly went back to the traces of jungle that are left.

"What we want is for them to stop taking away our forest. We don't want houses like the outsiders," says Ngantap, one of the elders of an Orang Rimba tribe.

"I am at peace and happy in the forest, I am a person of the jungle."

Ngantap wears the traditional loincloth of the Rimba people, with a bag of cigarettes hanging from the side.

Unmarried women traditionally wear simple sarongs covering the breasts. Once married, the sarong is tied around the waist leaving breasts open for feeding babies. Many now wear clothes from the outside.

But Ngantap insists they are holding on to their faith.

"If our belief system is lost, and the gods and goddess have no forest home, disaster will reign."
Ngantap's wife Ngerung tell me they are connected to the trees from birth.
"After a baby is born, three trees must be planted, one for the placenta, one for the baby, one for the name. They can never be cut down or hurt. When we walk through our forest we remind people of this."
to the forest begins at birth
Mr Manurung explains: "Orang Rimba worship many gods, the tiger [being] one of the most powerful.
"They have a god of bees, a god of hornbill birds, gods and goddesses of many trees. They also worship a god of water springs. They will never go to the toilet or put soap in the river, so you can drink it directly."

Sacrifice

Miyak, my guide, converted to Islam so he can travel and fight to try and protect his family's forest.
They are trying to register the forest as their ancestral land, following a landmark 2013 court ruling which said indigenous people have rights over forests they have lived in for centuries.
is fighting for legal recognition for its ancestral forest
He can take part in meetings but not in religious ceremonies or rituals. As he now uses soap to wash himself and eats chicken and cows, he can't enter his family home.
"When I got educated in the outsiders' ways, there were many things that I had to sacrifice.
"But I accept that, because I am a messenger and bridge for many people here with the outside world and the government, about our forest and rights."
He still fears the gods and goddesses of the old religion.
"It's the sacred people - our women shamans - [that] I fear. They can communicate and see the gods and goddesses.
"The shaman can become a tiger, can become an elephant if the gods are very angry, and attack people. I am scared of that. I worry about breaking the rules."
But Miyak's greatest fear is that is his people's way of life will disappear forever.
By Rebecca Henschke BBC Indonesian Editor