Indonesia: February 7, 2002


The federal government's loss of control throughout the country continues to make it easier for smugglers and pirates to operate freely. The navy has had little success in controlling piracy in Indonesian waters. In 2001, there were 108 acts of piracy in Indonesian waters, with 17 of them being in the busy Malacca Straits. This is a sharp decrease from 75 incidents last year in the straits, largely because of increased anti-piracy efforts by the Malaysians. This Malaysian effort was prompted partially in response to the Aceh rebels threatening to close the Malacca Straits. This would involve sinking ships, but the only new pirate tactic seen last year was the kidnapping of crew members off large ships, and holding them for ransom in Aceh. This tactic is partially in response to the increasing use of Shiploc, a radio device that is hidden on the ship and broadcasts the ships location 15 times a day. Smugglers are another matter, it being very difficult to police the thousands of ships and boats operating around the Indonesian islands at all times. Without much effective police control on land, the smugglers can do as they please. At most, they have to pay off the local strongman (who often controls what passes for local police.) Drugs, weapons, illegally cut timber,  illegal migrants and consumer goods are all being smuggled. The central government has not figured out how to deal with this. Part of the problem is that during the 30 year dictatorship, there was still a lot of corruption, but the use of secret police and "organized corruption" gave the central government enough clout to crack down on some things, like piracy and international terrorists. That control is gone, and no one wants the dictatorship back. But no one has yet figured out how to get an honest government going when so many local officials are not interested.




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