Update COVID-19 in Indonesia: 497,668 confirmed infections, 15,884 deaths (23 November 2020)
23 November 2020 (closed)
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Nico Afinta, Head of the Jakarta Police's Narcotics Unit, said the number of drug users in Indonesia is estimated to have grown up to 5 million people. They are particularly centered in Jakarta (where it is estimated that up to 1 million people use illegal drugs) and Bali. Afinta added that the high number of drug users makes Indonesia an attractive market for drug smugglers or traffickers, particularly as law enforcement in Indonesia is generally weak. Therefore, tough action is required.
However, there are serious doubts whether these estimations are anywhere close to reality. One million drug abusers in Jakarta would mean that one out of every eleven people you meet on the streets of Jakarta is a drug user. This seems highly unlikely, even with the relatively easy criteria that are used by the government (namely one that has used intravenous drugs once within a 12-month period is categorized as an addict).
Based on a report released by United Nations in 2010, 0.18 percent of Indonesia's population used amphetamines, or approximately 469,000 people. Still, whether or not these numbers are accurate, the illegal drug issue is something that needs to be combated in Indonesia as it makes too many victims.
Last week Indonesian President Joko Widodo, often called Jokowi, made a controversial statement by saying he supports law enforcers shooting drug traffickers in order to tackle the drug abuse problem within the country, something which is very similar to President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs in the Philippines. Jokowi's statements immediately ignited criticism from human right activist groups.
Jokowi made this statement after a ton of crystal methamphetamine (shabu-shabu) was seized by authorities in the Mandalika Hotel near Anyer Beach in Serang (Banten) on 13 July 2017. These illegal drugs, having an estimated street value of IDR 1.5 trillion (approx. USD $112 million), were smuggled from China (allegedly) by four Taiwanese men. One of the Taiwanese men was shot dead by Indonesian police, the others were arrested. It constitutes the largest seizure of illegal drugs in Indonesia to date.
Budi Waseso, Chief of the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), recently said there are around 72 "active" international drug rings in Indonesia. Considering the Philippines' war on drugs, there is some concern that the networks that were previously active in the Philippines will move to Indonesia.
Indonesia is one of the world's nations that upholds the toughest penalties for crimes related to illegal drugs. Over the past couple of years around 20 convicted drug traffickers (including foreigners) have been executed by Indonesian authorities despite fierce criticism from abroad.
These tough sanctions seem to be supported by a large part of the Indonesian population. Therefore, some believe Jokowi's tough language and actions (not giving clemency to those that have been sentenced to death) are actually a strategy to boost his popularity across the country, a bit similar to "strong man" Suharto during his New Order government (1966-1998).