Rioting mobs stormed dozens of Chinese-owned shops and homes in a provincial town Thursday, the latest rampage in growing unrest over an economic crisis that has sent Indonesia's food prices soaring.
In the capital, a 600-strong crowd of students at the country's largest university demanded that President Suharto's government resign over the financial turmoil, Indonesia's worst in three decades.Witnesses said thousands of rioters set piles of tires and buildings aflame in Kendari on Sulawesi island, 1,120 miles northeast of the capital, Jakarta - though police insisted they had stopped mobs from setting homes and businesses on fire. Buses stayed off highways out of fear of being attacked.
"They came into the streets. They were burning piles of tires and throwing rocks at police," said one resident, Edi Jaya.
It took 300 police equipped with clubs and shields to put down the rioting.
Indonesia's crisis began seven months ago, when the value of its currency, the rupiah, began plummeting. Since then, prices and joblessness have soared.
Chinese merchants, who dominate the economy, are often targeted by Indonesians when prices rise. The merchants say they are being made scapegoats for events beyond their control.
Unrest has been building for days in Kendari. About 6,000 people, including college students and protesting workers, attacked shops with rocks Wednesday.
In Jakarta, students staged a peaceful protest on the campus of the University of Indonesia.
A statement from protest organizers said Indonesia's "New Order" political and economic system, developed by Suharto in the 1970s, can no longer meet the people's interests.
"Therefore, the New Order should peacefully resign from this country's administration," it said. "We demand an accountability by President Suharto over the current economic, social and political crisis. We call on all Indonesian students to unite in a struggle for reform."
Suharto, who has governed for 32 years, is almost certain to win re-election next month in a poll by a 1,000-member assembly.
Police were guarding several major buildings in Jakarta.
Meanwhile, wealthy Chinese companies tried to soften resentment against Indonesia's Chinese ethnic minority by donating food and other goods to the poor.