Jakarta Burns

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Armored vehicles rumble through Jakarta’s burning streets, empty except for implacable rioters; the value of the currency plummets with the rising death toll, foreign diplomats evacuate their families, and the aging dictator talks about getting “closer to God.” Indonesians could be forgiven for thinking the impossible had become the inevitable -- that Suharto was about to go.

But TIME correspondent William Dowell points out that there is no easy resolution in Indonesia: While the army recognizes the need to replace Suharto, until an obvious successor emerges they’re forced to keep him in power. Dowell believes there will be no signs of a coup against Suharto until it’s a fait accompli: “Anyone who telegraphs their intentions would be quickly eliminated, so it's not likely that there'll be any signs of a move against Suharto until it’s over.” At the same time, Dowell warns, “Suharto is a brilliant politician and has all the instincts to come out on top in any battle for power.” All of which means Jakarta may continue to burn for some time yet.