Indonesia's military chief on Monday said student protests against President Suharto were sliding toward anarchy, but demonstrations against the aging ruler persisted.

The government announced sharp hikes in fuel, electricity and transport prices - moves that could inflame further unrest among the nation's 200 million people, who are being battered by the worst economic crisis in decades.Serpentine queues swiftly sprang up at gas stations before the price rises went into effect at midnight local time.

Armed forces head and Defense Minister Gen. Wiranto, probably Indonesia's most powerful man after Suharto, said he had told army commanders to crack down on student demonstrations that moved off campus.

"There is proof that if students go out of the campus, the protests become uncontrollable," Wiranto said after a meeting with Suharto. "It has been proved in Medan."

"Therefore, I have ordered the military to take stern action against activities that are clearly moving toward anarchy, like in Me-dan," Wiranto said.

Analysts said the increase in fuel prices would ripple through the economy, adding to inflationary pressures, and provide potent fodder for further anti-government agitation.

News of the price hikes had not spread but student protests were strident during the day in the city of Medan, the scene for some of the most violent clashes in recent weeks.

Indonesia pledged to reduce subsidies on fuel and electricity under reforms agreed with the IMF and the price increases have been long anticipated despite warnings that they may lead to unrest.