Indonesian micronations shock
The Indonesian micronations shock (Indonesian: Geger negara mikro) refers to the sudden popular interest and media frenzy to several communities with micronation-like characteristics exposed to the public in early January 2020, followed by harsh response from Indonesian authorities who arrested several founders of the communities that went viral.
The shock began on 10 January 2020, when the existence of Keraton Agung Sejagat (Great Palace of the Universe) went viral among the Indonesian public after videos and photos of its grandiose royal parade circulated on Indonesian social media. Another community, Sunda Empire, was known later to the public on 15 January, after series of videos of its activities (most notably its "military" defiles) were exposed. Several pretenders of former Keratons was also made known to the public, especially those that still claim to be and run as political entities.
Reactions of the Indonesian public was mixed, with most of them considered the exposed communities as silly and treating them as a laughing stock, while some others circulated memes about the communities. However, the authority's reactions was far more hostile, as they arrested the founders of Keraton Agung Sejagat for suspected fraudulent activities on 14 January, and later of Sunda Empire on 28 January. The Indonesian prosecutor sought 10 years of prison time against the founders of both Keraton Agung Sejagat and the Sunda Empire on their trial on May and June 2020. The judges then sentenced Toto and Fanni of Keraton Agung Sejagat for 4 and 1.5 years in prison respectively on a trial concluded in September 2020; while three Sunda Empire founders were sentenced for 2 years in prison on a separate trial concluded in October 2020.
Micronationalism in general is inherently eccentric and will always attract interests or responses from members of the public outside the micronational community, unaware on the actual goals or motives espoused by its founder on establishing a micronation. Meanwhile, responses of the Indonesian public and the authority to such communities are influenced by several factors, mainly by Indonesian national ideology and the inherent character of Indonesian society.
Indonesian national ideology, Pancasila, dictates the "unity of Indonesia" (Indonesian: Persatuan Indonesia) as one of its five main principles. The principle discourage secessionism and activities perceived to potentially threaten Indonesia's unity and territorial integrity. As consequences, micronations with active political structure—and especially those espousing secessionist micronationalism—might be perceived as an actual threat for Indonesia's security, and opponents might perceive political structure in micronations as an attempt to rival the legal Indonesian authority.
In contrast with the Western culture that embraces individualism, strong communalism is one of the main characteristics of Indonesia society, which gives justification for its members to intervene and reprimand others who they perceived to deviate from the accepted norms. Hence, micronations with distinct traditions or social norms might cause discomfort among outsiders who witness their activities and then, felt justified to taking action, decided to intervene against the micronation or even reporting them to authorities. Founders of Keraton Agung Sejagat were charged with disorderly conduct, mainly after complaints from its neighbours suspicious of actions of the Keraton.
Previous actions against micronations
Mockery, harassment, and legitimate warnings conveyed by peers are a constant challenge for Indonesian micronationalists if they allowed their activities to be exposed and publicised. The outsiders often warn them about possible negative reactions from the Indonesian authority if they continued their micronational activities and urge them to quit micronationalism. In one instance to prevent harsh reactions from their peers, Indokistani authority decided to avoid using "independence" (Indonesian: kemerdekaan) rhetoric to describe its founding, but to use "establishment" (Indonesian: pendirian) as a word to diminish the connotation that they seek legitimate independence from Indonesia, despite the word "Independence" being written on Indokistan's founding document in 2010.
Indonesian authorities' actions against micronations had occurred in the past, with the earliest records occurred in the early decade of the 2000s, when the Democratic Republic of Sunda (related to the current Sunda Empire) became a media sensation after its two princesses, Lamia Roro Wiranatadikusumah Siliwangi Al Misri and Fathia Reza Wiranatadikusumah Siliwangi Al Misri, were detained at the Malaysian border to Brunei after they attempted to enter without a valid pass.
During the 2020 AIM General Assembly Special Session on 11 July 2020, Falalian delegate revealed that their micronation had been harassed by Indonesian police into disbanding it. The incident occurred during King Muhammad I Shah's earlier micronational project in 2013 when an Indonesian police officer confronted him due to his micronational activities and told him to disband his micronation as he was told "not to mimic what the separatists have done". To avoid further repercussions, he reluctantly disbanded his micronation and took a hiatus on the movement, before restoring his courage by founding Falalia in 2017. At the same meeting, the Litanian delegate also reported similar harassment that the country had experienced in the past.
Keraton Agung Sejagat
Keraton Agung Sejagat (Great Palace of the Universe) - Keraton refers to the royal palace in Javanese - was a community founded by Toto Santoso (Toto Santoso Hadiningrat) and Fanni Aminadia (Dyah Gitarja) in 2018 as a monarchy with at least 450 followers. Keraton follows the Majapahit Empire's systems and traditions, as they claimed that their country was established merely to fulfill a prophecy made during the collapse of Majapahit in the mid-16th century. The Keraton claimed to control the Pentagon, the United Nations, and several other international organisations.
On 12 January 2020, the Keraton held a royal parade outside the Keraton compound and attracting public attention that recorded the parade and circulate it to their social media. The records went viral and attracting further reactions from the wider Indonesian audience, and media frenzy soon followed, with national televisions and reporters flocked the Keraton.
Despite public acceptance of the parade, some other groups suspicious of the Keraton later reported it to the Indonesian police. They previously complained that the group held a cringe rituals that deviate from local norms. After a police visit on 13 January to inquire about the movement, Toto and Fanni were later detained by the police in 14 January, with its criminal indictment was fixed on 15 January. Both of them were charged with fraud and disorder actions against the community. The Keraton collapsed on the following day, with Indonesian authority consoled former members of the Keraton and requesting them to go home.
Pictures circulating on social media after the arrests showed the royal court were intricately decorated, so does the military attire of the King and his followers. Indonesian media reported that one uniform costs about Rp900.000 (US$60), equal to two weeks salary of regular Indonesian workers It was also reported that there was a sacred pool, an ancient inscription, and a building under construction inside the Keraton compound.
Sunda Empire - Earth Empire was established in 2017 and was based on romanticism to the ancient Sundanese Tarumanegara kingdom that existed in the 5th century. The Empire went viral after a series of videos showcasing activities of the Empire (most notably its military defiles) were circulated to the public. The videos showed the founder of the Empire with hundreds of his followers in military attire.
Sunda Empire was led by three individuals: Nasri Banks as Prime Minister, Ratna Ningrum as Dowager, and Rangga Sasana as the Secretary General. They claimed to rule the entire world and further claimed that the United Nations was founded in Bandung, West Java, the centre of the Sunda Empire. They also claimed to have US$500 million in several banks in Switzerland.
Circulating ancestry tree of the founders of the Sunda Empire somehow connects the Empire with the Democratic Republic of Sunda, which in the 2000s decade attracted media interests after two of its princesses were arrested by the Malaysian Police in Brunei border.
Exaggerated claims made by the Empire attracted a media frenzy among Indonesian media; and televisions in turn broadcasted interviews with the founders of the Sunda Empire. Rangga was particularly notable since he was seen as the most enthusiastic member of the Empire, participating in one television talkshow where he was confronted by Indonesian politicians and historians on the accuracy of various claims made by the Empire.
After becoming the target of media frenzy, the Sunda Empire was forcibly disbanded after the founders were arrested by Indonesian authorities on 28 January 2020. All of them were charged with spreading hoaxes and false information, and also inciting disorder.
Pretenders of former Keratons
Historically, Indonesia had an enormous number of sovereign Keratons and Sultanates that ruled in small regions. Most of them were wiped out, or were lost independence and made Dutch dependencies in the 19th and early 20th century. The Keratons and Sultanates further wiped out by the Republicans during the fervour of Indonesian independence after 1945, leaving only small numbers that survived until today. The remnants of the surviving Keratons and Sultanates are able to continue their rituals and traditions on a smaller scale, despite no longer hold political power over its subjects. In several exceptional case, some Keratons still hold a significant influence in regional politics, with Yogyakarta as the most famous example of surviving Keraton with its political power protected by Indonesian law
One of the most notable pretenders is the Selacau Sultanate (Indonesian: Kesultanan Selacau) that claimed themselves to be the descendants of the Sundanese Pajajaran Kingdom that existed in the 16th century. The sultanate is led by Rohidin as Raden Patrakusumah VIII and a council of ministers that includes a treasurer and state secretary. The sultanate claimed to have their cultural artefacts recognised by UNESCO and that they had a fund stored in a Swiss bank.
Selacau Sultanate survived persecution by Indonesian authority by claiming themselves as merely a cultural community that preserves cultural artifacts and traditions. The sultanate also claimed to be a legal movement, as their registration request was accepted by the Indonesian authority, and was recognised as a cultural community in 2018. Selacau Sultanate later held a ceremony to celebrate their "exposure" to the Indonesian public, as Rohidin felt pleased that his Sultanate is finally known nationwide, and also calls for preservation of cultural aspects, especially those of Selacau.
Faux-micronations and aspirant state
Several other communities and establishments also received public attention during the aftermath of the Keraton Agung Sejagat and the Sunda Empire media phenomenon. Those communities were made known especially because of their elaborate "royal" decorations or usage of the "Kingdom" name, yet in reality have no further structure as a proper micronation, nor any aspiration to establish any political system on their communities.
Kandang Wesi "Kingdom" was founded in 2015 by Nurseno Utomo, and attracted public interest after royal decorations were found in his personal compound and his "royal titles" was made known in public in January 2020. A clarification later showed that the "Kingdom" itself was actually a traditional martial arts school, and his "royal titles" were in reality bestowed as an honour from the actual Indonesian Nusantara Kings and Sultans Forum in 1998.
A former MP candidate was arrested on 31 January 2020 and accused of sedition after his video proposing the disbandment of Indonesia went viral. In the video recorded in 2015, he claimed that the "Nusantara People's State" must be founded to replace the ailing Unitary Republic of Indonesia.
A "Soto Kingdom" was founded on 2 February 2020. The declaration was made by Ubaidillah that claimed himself as the "Regent of Soto" in lavish royal costume, accompanied by his relatives. It was a promotional stunt for Soto, an Indonesian traditional soup dish. A similar event also attracting media interest in mid-January 2020, when a declaration of the establishment of a "Kingdom" turned out to be a promotional stunt for a traditional food stall.
The peculiar micronational movements have received mixed reactions. The scale of response expressed by the Indonesian public is unexpectedly high, with news and reports about the movement widely circulated and reposted by social media users, and memes related to the Keraton going viral.
An expert in sociology has correctly referred the communities as "micronations" in an interview with Indonesian media, explaining that those communities may have ideas on an utopic society and attempted to fulfil the ideas. Despite that, he also declares that the communities may also be regarded as fraudulent if they requested a sum of fees demanded to its members, and its members may be illiterate and fail to understand reality.
An Indonesian citizen remarks about the benefits of micronationalism - despite the Indonesian authority's hostile reactions against the Keraton and the Sunda Empire - that had received public applause. He wrote that, fundamentally, micronations are able to serve as a useful educational tool for high school students, especially because "micronations" are able to comprehensively integrate multiple studies in one class.
A pretender of the former Sultanate also argued that Indonesian authority should enact a law to protect the honour and heritage of Indonesian existing Keratons and Sultanates as a cultural institution. He also said that the law should protect the sanctity of Indonesian Keratons and Sultanates from illegitimate and fabricated pretenders, such as those of Keraton Agung Sejagat and the Sunda Empire.
Responding on the ongoing trial against Sunda Empire founders in June 2020, an Indonesian netizen criticised the prosecutor for seeking 10 years of prison tine against the Sunda Empire's founders. The citizen said that the prosecution is too heavy and that the prosecutor must be more lenient as the Sunda Empire is not an actual threat to Indonesia.
Former West Java police chief claimed that such movements were somehow "designed" by groups that desired to disintegrate Indonesia and plead the authorities to continue criminal investigations against the movements. Furthermore, West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil commented that the groups were established by "crazy people".
Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo had seen tourism as a potential industry in the erstwhile Keraton Agung Sejagat compound, promising that the compound would be converted into a tourist attraction—with buildings inside the compound to be renamed as former Javanese kingdoms, and its visitors able to take photos in a photo booth with royal costumes. He also pleaded to the citizens to react accordingly in viewing these issues, while also acknowledging that the founders of Keraton may be involved in fraudulent actions.
Arrest and trial of community founders
The Indonesian authority took stern action against those micronation-like movements. After Indonesian police visited the Keraton compound on 13 January, they immediately arrested the founders of the Keraton and charged them for fraud and disorder. Furthermore, Indonesian police also requested support from the intelligence agencies to investigate the Sunda Empire while also announcing the possibility of criminal prosecution against the founders of the Sunda Empire. Founders of the Sunda Empire were arrested as well on 28 January with similar charges as the Keraton weeks before.
The trial on the Keraton Agung Sejagat commenced on 5 May 2020, with the Indonesian prosecutor seeking 10 years of prison time against the founders of the Keraton. On another trial against the founders of the Sunda Empire held on 18 June 2020, the Indonesian prosecutor similarly also sook 10 years of prison time against three of the Sunda Empire's founders on a charge of disturbing Sundanese community and spreading hoaxes.
Keraton Agung Sejagat founders Toto and Fanni were sentenced to 4 and 1.5 years in prison respectively on a trial concluded in September 2020; while three of the Sunda Empire's founders were sentenced to 2 years in prison on a separate trial concluded in October 2020.
Indonesian micronational community
Members of the Association of Indonesian Micronations (AIM) acknowledged that Keraton Agung Sejagat and the Sunda Empire community had characteristics of a micronation despite neither interactions nor mutual recognition with either movements. AIM members also saw a potential for "going public" and introducing themselves to the wider Indonesian society.
A proposal to legalise the statutes of AIM in Indonesia by registering to the authority was also once proposed by the AIM General Assembly. The proposal received mixed reactions. Supporters believe that by registering the organisation, it will allow AIM member states to affirm and acknowledge their loyalty to Indonesia, and may secure them from persecution. The opponents worried that the plan may backfire and have AIM members arrested if the Indonesian authority misjudges the movement as separatists, especially after precedents made by the Keraton and Sunda Empire.
Keraton Agung Sejagat
Toto and Fanni of Keraton Agung Sejagat were released from Bandung prison on 15 March 2021. Their release was due to legal requirements for prisoner to be released pending their appeal to the Supreme Court—as their verdict was considered not legally binding yet—instead on the basis that they already completing their sentence in full. As their appeal to the Supreme Court failed, the couple were rearrested by the police on 6 December 2021 and returned to prison at the same day to finish the remainder of their prison term.
Sunda Empire founders, among them Raden Rangga and Nasri Banks were released from prison in the end of April 2021 after serving half of their sentence period, and allowed to continue serving their sentence from their respective homes under an inmate assimilation programme.
After regaining his freedom, Rangga entered the entertainment industry and joined content creators in social media while continue embracing his status in Sunda Empire, which he made part of his identity. His decision to enter the industry was relatively successful, as he constantly being invited to appear in television shows and advertisements. Rangga was known with his moniker "Lord Rangga", affectionately given by social media users.
Besides attempted career in entertainment, Rangga was also successful on his bid to be the manager of Central Java's Brebes District football club Persab in August 2022, despite later resigning from the position after only several months. Rangga passed away on 12 December 2022 due to illness, and his passing was lamented by the Indonesian public as well as social media users.
- Timeline of micronational media coverage for a complete list of interactions between micronations and macronational media.
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