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Fears of a Philippine-style drug war rise in Indonesia


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.”

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