Chairman of Murder Victims Research Foundation 1965 Bejo Untung talks to journalists shortly after a meeting with Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Luhut Pandjaitan (not in picture) in Jakarta. Picture: EPA/ Adi Weda

Jakarta - Indonesia announced on Monday it will form a team to investigate what activists say are mass graves from 1960s anti-communist massacres, its latest move to resolve the dark chapter.

The decision came after activists handed authorities a list of sites where they say some of those killed during the massacres were buried.

The purge in 1965-66 was one of the worst mass killings of the last century and saw at least 500,000 alleged communists and sympathisers killed, but had long remained taboo in Indonesia.

However the government reopened the painful episode last month by backing a series of public discussions into the atrocity for the first time, after which President Joko Widodo ordered a senior minister to launch a probe.

Security Minister Luhut Panjaitan on Monday met with activists led by a group called the Foundation for Research into Victims of the 65-66 Killings, who handed him information about 122 sites on Java and Sumatra islands, his ministry said.

After the meeting, the ministry said on Twitter it would form a team to start excavating the sites.

Panjaitan stressed that authorities would protect the safety of those involved, it said.

“He sends a message for everybody to stay calm,” it added.

The ministry did not say when the team would begin excavating.

Foundation head Bedjo Untung said the government's response seemed positive.

“I feel the government is serious. This is a new chance,” he told AFP.

“There's a willingness to resolve issues from Luhut Panjaitan's side, not to burden the next generation with the past.”

However, other activists have expressed scepticism about whether the government is serious about unearthing the truth.

Panjaitan faced criticism after insisting at last month's discussions that the government would not issue an official apology.

The mass killings happened around the time General Suharto came to power, and during his 32-year rule the official narrative was that they were necessary to rid the country of communism.

The massacres, conducted by local groups supported by the security forces, began after Suharto put down a coup on October 1, 1965, that the authorities blamed on communists.

AFP