Drugs a growing menace in Indonesia

Drug smuggling and substance abuse continue to plague Indonesia despite stiff sentences levied against offenders.

By Pradipta Lakshmi for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta -- 04/02/12

February 03, 2012
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On January 22nd, a woman high on drugs and alcohol careened through Central Jakarta in an unregistered Toyota Daihatsu Xenia, crashing into a group of pedestrians and killing nine of them. The 29-year-old has been charged with murder.

  • Indonesian officials burn heroin seized in a 2005 case in which nine Australians were convicted of trying to smuggle 6.1kg (13lbs) of heroin to Australia from Bali, and given sentences ranging from life in prison to death. Despite such consequences, drug smuggling, production, and abuse are on the rise. [Reuters]

    Indonesian officials burn heroin seized in a 2005 case in which nine Australians were convicted of trying to smuggle 6.1kg (13lbs) of heroin to Australia from Bali, and given sentences ranging from life in prison to death. Despite such consequences, drug smuggling, production, and abuse are on the rise. [Reuters]

Earlier in January, a Lion Air pilot was arrested for possession and consumption of methamphetamines in a hotel in Makassar, South Sulawesi.

Most recently, on Friday (February 3rd), customs officials announced the seizure last month of 1 kg (2.2 lbs.) of crystal methamphetamine, found hidden in a package of water purifiers at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. A 29-year old Jakarta man to whom the package was addressed is under arrest.

According to National Narcotics Agency (BNN) spokesman Sumirat Dwiyanto, drug abuse and narcotics trafficking have surged in Indonesia in recent years.

"In 2004, as many as 3.2 million (people) were involved in drug abuse cases in Indonesia, and 3.6 million in 2008. In 2011, the number recorded was 3.8 million," Dwiyanto told Khabar Southeast Asia.

Crystalline methamphetamine use saw the highest increase, accounting for 53% of all drug-related arrests in 2010 compared with 38% in 2009, according to a 2011 Asia-Pacific report by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Smuggling numbers are also on the rise. The most popularly used narcotics in Indonesia are marijuana, methamphetamine, ecstasy, heroin, and cocaine, arriving from Iran, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, China, and various West African countries, Dwiyanto said.

Just last month, $14.3 million worth of narcotics from China, Iran, and the Netherlands were seized after they were smuggled through an international syndicate in Malaysia.

In 2010, 354 kg (780 lbs.) of crystal meth – a 30% increase over 2009 — and 352,515 ecstasy pills – a 14% rise from the year before – were seized by police, according to the UNODC.

"As for Iran, they usually control the trafficking from overseas by smuggling the drugs via Indonesian or Malaysian citizens," Dwiyanto said.

Indonesia's 81,000-km of coastline makes the archipelago nation vulnerable to smugglers.

"Indonesia's coastline has a lot of areas that are open or not guarded," Dwiyanto said. "Unlike 'official' ports, these spots are the gates to smuggle drugs into Indonesia."

"Other than coastlines, smugglers also make use of borders, such as Entikong (West Kalimantan), Papua New Guinea, and others," he said.

As increased drug use drives up demand in Indonesia, domestic drug production also expands.

Since 2005, "Indonesia – hitherto primarily a transit country for methamphetamine – has become a manufacturing centre for crystalline methamphetamine," while 99% of cannabis bought in Indonesia in 2009 was grown there, the UNODC 2011 report said.

From 2005 to 2011, BNN found 145 narcotics home 'labs' within Greater Jakarta, Dwiyanto told Khabar Southeast Asia. Larger-scale facilities are also present.

The booming production of synthetic drugs is made possible by the availability of ingredients in pharmacies and hospitals, Dwiyanto said.

Although drug smuggling and abuse are on the rise, Dwiyanto highlights what might be a light at the end of the tunnel: the rate of growth is slowing.

"There has been a surge, but we managed to cut down the rate of growth. In the first period that spanned four years, there was an increase [in drug use] of 400,000 and in the second period it was 200,000 in three years," he said.

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