Indonesia is a country of superlatives and contradictions: its 17,000 islands span an extent that is wider than the landmass of the USA; it is the fourth most populous country in the world, and its Muslim population is the world’s largest; more than half of the total population of 203 million live on the island of Java, which is smaller in size than England. Indonesia is rich in natural resources, but vulnerable to devastating natural hazards. Its economy was booming until the late 1990s, when it was badly damaged by the Asian financial crisis. After 30 years of the corrupt and oppressive Suharto regime, Indonesia is struggling to redefine itself as a constitutional democracy – but internal ethnic and inter-religious conflicts threaten the very future of the nation, if they cannot be resolved peacefully.
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