Scots-born researcher Lesley McCulloch, soon to be released from prison in Aceh, Indonesia, plans to return to Australia to begin a three-year research project on the political economy of the Indonesian military, the TNI.
She and Damien Kingsbury, a colleague at Deakin University in Melbourne, have been awarded an Australian Research Council grant of A$225,000 (£81,000).
Dr McCulloch and companion Joy Lee Sadler were arrested in Aceh by the Indonesian military last September and imprisoned for violating their visa conditions - allegedly by contacting rebels of the Free Aceh Movement. Dr McCulloch is a former lecturer in Asian studies at the University of Tasmania and has been a regular visitor there for several years, researching human rights abuses and military excesses in the province.
Dr Kingsbury said the arrest of the two women put foreign researchers at risk of becoming political prisoners in Indonesia, and Dr McCulloch's five-month prison sentence sent a signal that the Indonesian military's tolerance of foreign interference in domestic issues had ended.
"Aceh is a very sensitive issue for the TNI as it has been unable to defeat the region's 26-year-old separatist movement," he said.
Dr Kingsbury and Dr McCulloch hope to assess the extent of the TNI's legal and illegal business and criminal links, and how control or reduction of these could bring the military further under civilian control.
"The premise is that the TNI cannot be brought under proper civilian control, and hence this places structural impediments in the way of democratisation, if it (the TNI) gets the majority of its funding from non-government sources," Dr Kingsbury said. "The TNI currently derives about three-quarters of its $4 billion-a-year income from non-government sources, with a quarter from legal businesses and half from illegal operations, in particular from smuggling, protection rackets and conventional organised crime."
Dr Kingsbury said the TNI's business interests had never been fully explored. The researchers hoped a thorough study would indicate where and how the business links might be reformed.
"The implications are primarily for Indonesia's process of democratisation but they are also critical for future military-to-military links, and other bilateral aid projects and political reform."
Dr McCulloch expects to be deported to Britain and will then visit her mother in Scotland.
Ms Sadler was released from prison last week.
Dr Kingsbury's book on the TNI, Power, Politics and the Indonesian Military , will be published by Routledge in April.