Clad in a white linen shirt and creased pants, Kamaruzzaman strolls into the hotel lobby in Banda Aceh looking more like a businessman than a rebel negotiator. In the past, he played both roles, and paid the price. Until three weeks ago, he languished in jail in Bandung, accused of treason after representing the separatist Acehnese rebel movement during failed negotiations in 2003. Now, as part of an ambitious peace deal between the Indonesian government and the FreeAceh Movement, known by the abbreviation GAM, he is a free man. Stirring his coffee, Mr Kamaruzzaman reflects on the dramatic events that have brought hope to war-weary Aceh of a political settlement for one of Asia's longest-running conflicts. 'We must build trust, but this is difficult after 30 years of conflict. Both sides are hurting, and it's not easy to solve this overnight,' he said. The previous day, dozens of GAM guerillas drove into Banda Aceh, the provincial capital, to hand over the first batch of weapons to an international monitoring team. Watched by hundreds of journalists and Indonesian civilian and military officials, the monitors had cut the firearms into pieces, providing a tangible sign of peace. At the same time, troops are slowly leaving Aceh, leaving behind a force of 25,000 local soldiers and police. Under the peace accord signed in Finland last month, the demobilisation should be complete by December 31, clearing the way for elections in a largely autonomous Aceh. But this delicate process has a long way to run, and observers warn that hardliners on both sides may be reluctant to play along. Mr Kamaruzzaman insists that GAM is ready to surrender the 840 weapons specified in the peace accord, as it has renounced its armed struggle for independence. 'Destroying these guns is a risky move for GAM. If Indonesia doesn't keep its promise, they won't be able to defend themselves,' he said. Still, many Acehnese suspect that GAM is hanging on to some of its guns as an insurance policy, particularly in districts where monitors have a weak presence. In a rebel stronghold outside Banda Aceh, villagers say the peace process has eased tensions dramatically as Indonesian troops have stopped their daily patrols. Until last month, this village was virtually sealed off to outsiders by army checkpoints. Families of known rebels lived in fear of pre-dawn raids by vengeful soldiers. At a roadside cafe, several GAM guerillas swap stories over strong coffee and unfiltered clove cigarettes. Many have spent several years living in the green foothills surrounding the lush river valley and are readjusting to civilian life. 'Now the villagers respect me. It's a good feeling,' said Jaafar, a 28-year-old who joined GAM in 2002. Finding work for ex-combatants will be crucial in managing the peace process. International donors who are funding reconstruction in Aceh's tsunami-battered coastal areas have offered to support demobilisation programmes. 'Any time you have a large pool of unemployed young men sitting around doing nothing, that's a potential problem. Especially after a conflict like this,' says a Western aid worker. Cut Rayuek, a rice farmer whose son Mahfud spent 10 years as a GAM guerilla, says she is not sure what he will do next. Before he slipped away to take up arms, Mahfud used to work on the family's land, cutting hay for cattle feed. Since he returned last month, he hasn't offered to help. 'I can't tell him what to do. He's a grown man ... he used to be a farmer but now he doesn't know how,' she said, during a break from rice harvesting. Another concern is that the return of GAM guerillas to communities split by the conflict could trigger revenge attacks on those accused of aiding the other side. Resting outside the village mosque, Zamzamy, a rice farmer, recalls how his son-in-law was shot dead by soldiers. while ferrying supplies to GAM's jungle camps. He knows of three families living in the village that he suspects were paid informers for the Indonesian army, though he doesn't believe they betrayed his son-in-law. But he says that it's time to forget the bitterness of the past. 'We can forgive, because we have peace now. They are Acehnese too.'