This thread again...
I think that, in order to understand the usage of the word 'Indon' in Malaysia you will also have to look at how the word 'bule' is used in Indonesia... here I quote the part of a blog entry by an Australian living in Indonesia.
It's not that those who use it necessarily mean anything racist by it. 90% of the time in my particular context it is used quite innocently or naively (in the positive sense of the word). Fellow teachers and students use it in my presence. It's not their fault that they have been conditioned by society to use such a term. Nor am I necessarily offended when they use it. But that doesn't excuse the fact that when one examines it and similar labels closely, it is a label based on the colour of my skin and used to identify me or my child in situations where our race does not need identifying.
Bule itu lagi tersesat kayaknya... (That white guy looks lost)
Why the label? What's wrong with 'Orang itu... (That person)?
Wah..ada bayi bule...ada bayi bule!!! (There's a whitey baby...a whitey baby...)
Link to full article: http://ausdag.blogspot.com/2007/12/bule.html
You have to understand that not all Malaysians mean 'Indon' in a bad sense of the word either. Yes I am aware of some AF-ers who use the word 'Indon' (especially after they know what it means to Indonesians) just for flaming's sake, and indeed that is not commendable at all. But get out from AF, look at the local society and you'll see that we mostly use 'Indon' just for convenience's sake instead of having to pronounce a mouthful of 'orang Indonesia'. We use 'Indon' not just to address the Indonesian workers here but to address anything Indonesian in general - even for Indonesian celebrities that are a big hit among Malaysians. If you think we Malaysians only know Indonesians as foreign labourers, think again!
Ask a random Malaysian what 'Indon' means and there's a big chance he'll say 'Orang Indonesia lah.' He wouldn't specifically say 'Tenaga Kerja Indonesia' or 'pembantu rumah Indonesia' or 'buruh warga Indonesia', but just 'orang Indonesia' in general, which to him does not imply anything negative.
Another reason is because like the Indonesian usage of 'bule', we Malaysians have been conditioned to call Indonesians as 'Indons'. It simply does not mean anything negative to us. We've been calling Indonesians 'Indon' for decades and to reverse all that overnight is simply impossible. I suspect that the usage of 'Indon' is also due to the structure of the Malay language - you hardly find words or names that end with merely 'o' in our language. Which is why the term 'Indo' sounds strange and feels strange to the Malaysian tongue, simply because it's just not the way we pronounce things. In contrast, Indonesians are used to words and names that ends with the vocal 'o', so naturally to them 'Indo' is the best way to put it...
I think another reason why 'Indon' is still used is because we Malaysians are still not fully aware of what 'Indon' means to the Indonesians (don't bother about the Malaysians in AF, the larger portion is out there). So far I've only come across one Indonesian official from the Indonesian Consulate in Kuching (my city) that has bothered to address the issue publicly. I wouldn't have known if he had not said a thing either. And my friends, once by one person is not enough to create a big wave of change ...
But of course, I do urge all Malaysians (especially those in this forum) who are aware of this issue to stop calling our neighbours 'Indon', since we're no longer ignorant about it. Yes 'Indo' may sound strange and incomplete to our ears, but for the sake of neighbourly harmony we need to take initiative. We may be upset with some of the Indonesian forumers but we should still maintain a decent air and call them Indonesians or Indo the way they like it. So what if they call us 'malas' or 'Malingsia'? Let them! We did not respond to the Konfrontasi Indonesia with a Konfrontasi Malaysia and neither did we launch our own 'Basmi Indonesia' in response to their 'Ganyang Malaysia', so why should we start 'Indon'-ing them? Never reciprocate evil with evil, but with good.
And to the Indonesian forumers, we apologise if we've angered you with the usage of 'Indon' ... I just hope none will repeat the mistake again especially if they are aware of the issue. However do understand and give us time to change, as something that has been going on for decades as this never changes overnight, but takes a longer period of time. All we hope for is your kind patience and understanding. And if you wish, to educate the Malaysian public publicly
instead of confining yourself to the computers, because computers seldom go far when it comes to things like this.