Indonesia drug czar warns methamphetamine seizures tip of iceberg — President told law enforcement officers to shoot drug traffickers if they resist arrest


July 28, 2017

By Ed Davies and Stefanno Reinard

A large group of plain-clothes Indonesian police stand around a pile of bags of drugs.

Jakarta police seized 51 boxes of crystal methamphetamine, which was found in two vans. (Supplied by Jakarta Police)

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia is probably only stopping a fraction of what could be hundreds of tonnes of methamphetamine flooding in from countries such as China, even after a record seizure this month, its anti-narcotics czar said.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo last week told law enforcement officers to shoot drug traffickers if they resist arrest to deal with a narcotics emergency facing the archipelago of over 17,000 islands.

“We have became a good spot for drug dealers, because it’s easy to infiltrate by the sea. There are so many unofficial landing points and small ports, also many islands,” Commissioner General Budi Waseso, head of Indonesia’s anti-narcotics agency, said in an interview.

Image may contain: 6 people

Indonesia National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian (right) before briefing the media following a major drug bust. (Antara – M. Agung Rajasa)

Waseso said he believed that 72 international drug syndicates were operating in Indonesia.

The drugs chief said Indonesia would not replicate the bloody war on drugs in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte, in which hundreds have been killed, though he praised its aims.

“I never say that we have to follow the Philippines. We have our own laws,” said Waseso. “I have to say, though, that Duterte’s policy shows he is taking care of his citizens.”

Waseso said there was evidence of syndicates re-directing shipments of methamphetamine, known as “shabu” in Southeast Asia, towards Indonesia because of the crackdown in the Philippines.

Kill Drug Dealers

The drugs chief denied there had been any pressure from above to go outside the law to kill drug dealers, and said a recent series of shootings by police of dealers during arrests was due to greater resistance and better armed traffickers.

President Widodo’s comments on shooting dealers came a week after police shot dead a Taiwanese man in a town near the capital Jakarta.

An Indonesian policeman checks crystal methamphetamine from China after a raid at Anyer beach in Serang, Banten province, Indonesia July 13, 2017 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Picture taken July 13, 2017. Antara Foto/Asep Fathulrahman via REUTERS

Police said the man was part of a group trying to smuggle a record one tonne of crystal methamphetamine into Indonesia and was killed for resisting arrest.

Waseso said China was by far the biggest supplier of methamphetamine to Indonesia. Citing official data from China’s National Narcotics Control Commission, he said 250 tonnes of the drug were estimated to have been directed to Indonesia in 2016, while his agency only seized only 3.4 tonnes.

“Whereas shabu is exported not only from China, but from India, Pakistan, Africa, European countries etc. So it must be even more than 250 tonnes,” Waseso said.

He said while data in Indonesia was never fully accurate, the number of drug abusers in the country could be 6.4 million, based on a 2016 University of Indonesia survey.

“If one person consumes around one gram per week, it means they need 300 tonnes per year of shabu,” he said.

To meet the threat, Waseso said he was trying to obtain better weapons for officers. He said the drug syndicates, in addition to having better arms, also had anti-wiretapping devices.

Known at times for his offbeat ideas, Waseso repeated a suggestion that drug traffickers could be locked up on a prison island guarded by crocodiles to prevent dealers bribing the guards.

“You think crocodiles can be bribed? Of course not,” he said, adding that piranhas could be an alternative.

Waseso also said it might better to put drug addicts on remote islands where they could live off the land and the sea would be the barrier to escape.

“Only in this situation, I think they’ll forget about narcotics, because in their mind they will only think about how to get food,” he said.

Editing by Bill Tarrant



Indonesia hints at copying Philippine leader Duterte’s violent drug war

  • Indonesian officials, including President Joko Widodo, have instructed police to shoot drug traffickers who resist arrest
  • Such comments, similiar to those of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, have sparked fears that Jakarta could copy Manila’s drug war

Under pressure from widespread illegal narcotics distribution, Southeast Asia’s largest economy has expressed a willingness to let authorities shoot down drug dealers, sparking fears the country could embark on a Philippine-style drug war.

In a speech last week, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, said his country faced a “narcotics emergency” and recommended police to shoot drug traffickers who resisted arrest. “I have told you, just be firm, especially with foreign drug dealers who enter the country and resist [arrest]. Gun them down. Give no mercy,” local news outlets quoted the leader as saying.

Jakarta, July 20, 2017: 1 ton of crystal methamphetamine at the Metropolitan Jakarta regional office. Indonesian national police shot dead a Taiwan drug smuggler and arrested three Taiwanese at a hotel in Anyer, Banten province, after they received information from the Taiwanese government that 1,000 kilograms of meth crystal had been shipped to Indonesia from China.

Dasril Roszandi / NurPhoto / Getty Images
Jakarta, July 20, 2017: 1 ton of crystal methamphetamine at the Metropolitan Jakarta regional office. Indonesian national police shot dead a Taiwan drug smuggler and arrested three Taiwanese at a hotel in Anyer, Banten province, after they received information from the Taiwanese government that 1,000 kilograms of meth crystal had been shipped to Indonesia from China.

National Police Chief General Tito Karnavian also said last week that he had instructed police officers “not to hesitate shooting drug dealers who resist arrest,” Indonesian media reported.

Such comments mirror those of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is accused of giving police free rein to kill drug suspects. Philippine police have the right to shoot if their lives are endangered when drug suspects resist arrest, according to Duterte’s official instructions, but reports of extrajudicial executions are widespread.

In response, Human Rights Watch slammed Indonesian authorities.

“President Joko Widodo should send a clear and public message to the police that efforts to address the complex problems of drugs and criminality require the security forces to respect everyone’s basic rights, not demolish them,” Phelim Kine, the organization’s Asia deputy director, said in a recent note.

Many believe Duterte’s war on drugs, which has killed thousands, has jeopardized overall rule of law and democracy. Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano, however, has criticized media for misrepresenting Duterte’s policies.

If Indonesia, already weighed down by religious politics, embraces Duterte’s controversial policies, analysts predicted an increase in societal divisions.

“Launching such a crackdown will be deeply controversial in Indonesia,” said Anwita Basu, analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit. “Violence of this kind is not well liked in the archipelago where democracy is maturing and people are increasingly becoming more engaged in politics.”

Indonesia, which employs capital punishment for drug trafficking, has been gradually ramping up its roundup of suspected drug traffickers as it battles widespread use of crystal methamphetamine — earlier this month, authorities seized one ton of the addictive substance.

“The market that existed in the Philippines is moving to Indonesia, the impact of President Duterte’s actions is an exodus to Indonesia, including the substance,” Commissioner General Budi Waseso, head of Indonesia’s narcotics agency, recently told Australia’s ABC News. Waseso has previously called for police to emulate the Philippines’ war.

For now, however, Jokowi isn’t likely to embark on a drug war of the scale seen in the Philippines.

“There are some significant differences in the political careers of Jokowi and his counterpart in the Philippines,” explained Basu. “Unlike Duterte, Jokowi does not have his own political party backing him — this means that he will need full support from the electorate and will have to continue to bargain with various parties who don’t necessarily share the same views on drug crimes as he does.”

Unveiling a drastic measure like a drug war wouldn’t bode well for Jokowi’s chances of reelection in 2019, she added, noting that the easy availability and cheapness of narcotics was a public health and social issue, not a criminal one.


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