It was the worst of times. But it ushered in great hopes. Neighbourhoods in Jakarta and several other cities burned as riots erupted, shops were looted and ethnic Chinese were targeted, raped and killed. 'We had to lock ourselves inside the house for days. We were following the news on TV and it was really frightening,' said Endang Djuana, an ethnic Chinese Indonesian who was a student at Jakarta Trisakti University in 1998. Most believe the riots were manipulated by security forces and represented the ugly side of a remarkable student-led movement for change. Suharto's rule had lost legitimacy in the eyes of the people as Indonesia's corrupt system crumbled under the weight of the 1997 East Asian financial crisis. With skyrocketing inflation and the rupiah plummeting in value, millions of Indonesians were plunged back into poverty and students took to the streets. The protests climaxed in March 1998, when Suharto was re-elected as president and raised the price of fuel. On May 12, four students from Trisakti University were killed by the authorities while protesting on their campus. For Mr Endang and his friends, 'it was a shock', and a pain 'felt deep inside'. For others, it was the last straw. More students took to the streets, and when the military did not intervene, Suharto's fate was sealed. The reformist chant of 'Reformasi, Reformasi' reverberated throughout the capital when the former strongman quit on May 21 - 10 years ago this week. The end of his 32-year reign ushered in an era of great hope. Ten years later, Indonesia is the best working democracy in Southeast Asia, but many observers say much remains to be done. Vice-president Jusuf Kalla gloats in his Jakarta office as he lists the cementing of democracy, the decentralisation of power and the new freedom of the press as the main achievements of post-Reformasi Indonesia. 'These are great achievements, acknowledged by all,' he said. Under Suharto, elections were a farce, with the military-backed Golkar - Suharto's political vehicle and one of only three parties allowed - guaranteed victory. Hand-picked parliamentarians were then happy to elect Suharto as the country's president, time and time again. Mr Kalla, on the other hand, was chosen by the people on a ticket that saw Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono elected president with an overwhelming majority. The 2004 election, the first with a direct vote, was praised by former US president Jimmy Carter as the best he had ever observed. He had travelled to the country with a team of 60 observers from the Carter Centre. 'It was free and fair, and it proved that Islam and democracy are compatible,' said the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner, underlining that more than 80 per cent of Indonesia's 240 million people are Muslims. Besides the direct presidential vote, in the past decade Indonesia has pushed ahead with a decentralisation process that has given more power to local authorities and allowed citizens to choose their governors, mayors and heads of villages. In another clear sign of progress in democratisation, a string of political parties have emerged in the past few years to compete at national and local level. There are now 17 parties represented in parliament and more than 90 have registered to compete in next year's legislative election. Apart from a lingering ban on policies with communist leanings, parties are free to choose their ideological orientation and organisational structure. Yet, despite Mr Kalla's optimism, opinion polls show that Indonesians view the country's political parties as corrupt, unresponsive, self-absorbed and ineffective. At the local level, some elections have been marred by irregularities, and at national level the political leadership still includes many of the faces around during the Suharto tenure. Vedi Hadiz, co-author of Reorganising Power in Indonesia: The Politics of Oligarchy in an Age of Markets, argued that far from being swept aside by the tide of Reformasi, the same vested interests have successfully repositioned themselves within Indonesia's democracy in ways that maintain their social supremacy. 'This was possible because of the absence of coherent, genuinely reformist social coalitions that could take advantage of the state of flux that existed immediately after Suharto's resignation,' Professor Hadiz said in a recent article for Inside Indonesia. After 10 years of reforms, the best achievement in the economic field is the elimination of a number of concessions and monopolies - tools used by Suharto to extend his patronage. But some observers say little else has changed. In 1996, Indonesia had 10 rupiah-trillionaires. When the financial crisis was at its lowest point in 2000, only Eka Tjipta Widjaja remained standing. According to Forbes magazine, December 2007 edition, Indonesia now has 11 rupiah-trillionaires. In an in-depth investigation, the country's leading weekly Tempo showed that the super-rich were basically the same people as during Suharto's time. A difference from the past, however, is that tycoons no longer have such close ties to those in power and that connections have diversified. 'Those in business still need those in power. There used to be a single Cendana [Suharto] - now there are a thousand Cendanas,' said Christianto Wibisono, an observer of economics and politics and chairman of the Global Nexus Institute think-tank. The new patronage system, observers say, sees some magnates sheltering under the Puri Cikea Foundation linked to President Susilo and others close to the business empire of the vice president, Mr Kalla. A few more are cosy with parliamentarians and presidential candidates. Two other areas where Indonesia has made good but incomplete progress are reform of the armed forces (TNI) and human rights. Army reforms have included the withdrawal of support for Golkar in 1998 and splitting the military from the police in 1999. Under democratic reforms also agreed in 1999, the military and police lost their 38 appointed representatives in both parliament and People's Consultative Assembly in 2004. The long-awaited TNI law enacted four years ago called for all TNI-run businesses - once estimated to be worth US$966.18 million, and providing about 70 per cent of TNI's annual budget - to be handed over to the state by 2009. Dr Yudhoyono has established a team to take over those businesses, and the government is trying to boost the annual defence budget. Indria Samego, a security expert at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, said the reforms had drastically reduced the institutional power of the military but that people's mindsets still needed time to adjust. 'Liberal changes within the institutions are already under way, but people need to change too. Things don't stop at regulations; implementation needs process and time,' he said. According to most analysts, lawmakers need to reform the TNI's territorial structure, which sees more than 200,000 army personnel serve under 12 territorial commands that cover the country from Aceh to Papua, reaching down to the village level. The territorial structure was the basis of the military's domination of society and politics under Suharto and it is still seen as the main means by which the TNI influences local politicians and businesspeople. George Aditjondro, a sociologist, said the territorial structure precluded real civilian rule over the TNI. 'If Indonesia wants truly to reach civilian supremacy over the TNI, then the presence of the military is not required in villages,' he said. Experts agree that the last decade has seen Indonesia promulgate important human rights laws and sign essential international treaties. But they also agree that most of these changes are yet to be implemented in everyday life. 'The understanding of human rights in the bureaucratic system is good enough, but at implementation level, it is still erratic and the results are not yet significant,' said Indah Pangestu Amaritasari, a lecturer on human rights and politics at Jakarta's National University. The Human Rights Act of 1999, the 2002 constitutional changes that enshrine human rights and fundamental freedoms as the right of each citizen, and the passing of the Witness Protection Act in 2006 are among the important national laws passed. Also significant were the establishment of the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court, the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission on Violence Against Women, and the adoption of the National Plan of Action on human rights. At an international level, Indonesia is a party to all the main human rights instruments, but Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International say Indonesia has failed to bring to justice perpetrators of past human rights abuses, and that infringement on freedom of expression and religion persists. Past abuses were mostly committed in Aceh, Papua and East Timor, all areas where secessionist movements have been active. East Timor has since become an independent state, and the rebel group in Aceh has settled for autonomy, in one of the most remarkable achievements of the post-Suharto era. Concerns remain in Papua, where the security forces' heavy-handedness has led to abuses against the mostly peaceful independence movement. Ill-treatment in detention facilities and police lock-ups continue to be widely reported across the country. Mr Endang, who now teaches at the same Trisakti campus where he once studied, said that the veil of impunity is still widespread. 'Even for the killing of the Trisakti students, no one has been held accountable.' Reflecting on the past 10 years, he said that Indonesia has made progress but that 'Indonesians are not ready for a proper democracy and would prefer a more authoritarian government'.