The military flew in reinforcements Thursday as hundreds of ethnic Chinese fled Indonesia's third-largest city, victims of several days of rioting that sent the currency into a tailspin.
At least two people were killed in the clashes in Medan, which spread to three nearby towns. Violence over Indonesia's economic crisis also intensified in the capital, Jakarta, where police used pepper spray and fired blanks to push back more than 3,000 student protesters who tried to burst through a police blockade.Students had been largely alone in carrying out near-daily anti-government protests - until Monday, when rioting broke out in Medan over new, government-decreed price increases in fuel, transport and electricity prices.
Ethnic Chinese control much of the country's economy and their businesses are often targeted in times of turmoil. In Medan this week, hundreds of looters and rioters roamed the streets, looting Chinese-owned stores, attacking po-lice and burning cars.
Thursday, they shouted "Burn it down!" as they banged on kerosene drums and hurled stones at a Chinese-owned shop in nearby Titi-pa-tan. They scattered when police moved in.
Truckloads of police and soldiers armed with rifles and tear gas canisters patrolled Medan's rubble-strewn streets, where looters sifted through wrecked stores, pilfering cassettes, videotapes and other goods. Some Chinese shopkeepers opened their shops, peering warily from behind the shutters.
Lt. Gen. Prabowo Subianto, head of the army's strategic command, said he was sending troops into Medan to restore order.
Gen. Wiranto, the armed forces chief, Thursday said the military would name a team to study political reform.