Combating Drug Trafficking in Indonesia

By Yuni Suryati


Indonesia is a potential market for international narcotics syndicates, as Indonesia is an archipelago with many islands as the entry point of drugs trafficking.  Unsupervised seaports and airports become very vulnerable for the drug smuggling. The drug dealers abroad are eager to market their goods in the country. Various methods are used by international syndicates to enter either by land, sea and air. The huge benefit leads drug smugglers do everything possible to bribe authorities in Indonesia.

In 2013, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) drug users worldwide was estimated 246 million people. According to Troels Vester coordinator of the UN agency for drug-related crime, data from the year 2011 showed there were an estimated 3.7 million to 4.7 million drug users in Indonesia. Meanwhile, according to the authority of Indonesia National Narcotics Agency (BNN), currently as many as 5 million people of Indonesia as drug users.

The emergence of the Indonesian middle class in recent years, become a blessing and a catastrophe if not addressed wisely. The temptation lifestyle of hedonism has plunged the group’s upper middle class, to the brink of pleasure pseudo drugs. High demand from the hedonic that causes large numbers of drug abuse in Indonesia. Meanwhile, the number of drug users among students also showed a high figure. Data from the Center for Health Research, University of Indonesia (UI Puslitkes) and the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) in 2014, showed there were 27.32 percent drug users in Indonesia were students.

BNN disclosure on some cases indicated the involvement of international drug syndicate. In the past, Indonesia confirmed its status as transit countries and now turned into the market, as well as new locations for the drug’s production.

In addition to its high demand, one of the things that make the international drug syndicates lured to market the drug in Indonesia is the drug’s price. For example, the market price of 1 kg methamphetamines is Rp. 600 million, but when it arrived in Indonesia, the price could reach Rp 2 billion.

Death Penalty for Drug Dealers

In combating drugs, Indonesian government is very rigorous. Since 2015, Indonesian government has set death penalties for narcotics traffickers. Until now, there were three waves of death penalties for drug traffickers. First wave, on January 18, 2015, had already executed six drug convicts consisting of five foreigners and one Indonesian. Second wave execution was on 29 April 2015 where eight convicts had been shot to dead. Third wave was on 29 July 2016 and four people were executed. Thus a total of 18 people had been shot to dead. Besides the presence of the convict from Indonesia, other death row inmates come from 10 countries including Australia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Spain, Brazil, Nigeria, Netherlands, Malawi, and Vietnam.

Despite strong pressure from human rights organizations and some countries that its citizens were executed such as Australia, Spain and Vietnam, Indonesia’s determination to implement the death penalty was not deterred. Assertiveness is once again a strong signal that the government of Indonesia is very serious in handling criminal cases with regard to drug trafficking.

President Joko Widodo had emphasized that he would not grant clemency to drug convicts, who were responsible for the deaths of 50 Indonesians every day, despite protests from several countries and parties at home. Indonesia will always move forward and will not worry about facing pressure from inside and outside the country on behalf of human rights. Moreover, the death penalty is applicable in Indonesia because Indonesia experienced drugs emergency.  Drug trafficking is considering as an extraordinary crime.

Policy Options

To break the chain of drug trafficking, might not be done only by the police alone. Synergy between relevant institutions such as BNN, Customs and others are indispensable. The government should firmly and severely punish the rogue officers from the police or other agencies which are involving in drug’s activities.

The government must distinguish between drug traffickers and victims. Including courier’s distribution victims. The government should protect and rehabilitate the users as victims of drug abuse for not then equated with dealers.


To conclude, the Indonesian government should cooperate with the international community to combat drug trafficking in the country, such as the exchange of information in order to track the path of international drug trafficking and catch and punish the syndicates.


Jakarta, 28 October, 2016


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