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The Best Nightlife in Jakarta: Clubs, Bars, Spas, Restaurants
The #1 Reference of Jakarta nightlife: Bars, Night Clubs, Discos, Restaurants, Karaokes, Massage and Spas!...

Published: Sat 09 May 2015 11:46:30 AM CEST.

Favicon Jakarta Nightlife: Top 10 Clubs in 2015
9 May 2015, 11:46 am
"What are the best clubs in Jakarta?" is one of the questions I get asked the most by readers of Jakarta100bars.

The following list should answer this question though I imagine some of you may disagree with my rankings. If you do, please leave a comment below about your favorite clubs in the city.

Surprisingly, there has not been so many changes in the past few year in the city's clubbing scene. All the venues listed below already existed in 2014. 

As I mentioned in my review Jakarta Nightlife 2015, almost all nightclubs in Jakarta are expensive. If you are a heavy alcohol drinker and if you are with a small group, I would advise to always buy a bottle. That way you can get a table or a sofa close from the dance-floor and also avoid the First Drink Charge, FDC (usually amounting to Rp100,000 - Rp200,000). On weekends, it is essential to book in advance.

Bouncers in Jakarta take their jobs very seriously. If you are not dressed appropriately, you will be refused no matter how much money you are about to spend. Girls should always wear high-heels. Men should not wear a t-shirt or a torn jean.

Unfortunately, the quality of the music is not the focus in Jakarta. In most clubs below except Mille's, the playlist is similar and consists of a mix of mostly famous, mainstream international hits. You have an international DJ playing almost every weekend in Jakarta though. In this case, the music is more likely to be original.

If those 10 clubs are not enough, I invite you to read my list of Jakarta's Best Bars in 2015. Most of these have a DJ on Fridays and Saturdays.

1) Blowfish

Blowfish was just renovated in 2014 during Ramadan. Since it reopened, it has managed to attract Jakarta's best crowd. Recent guest DJs include Dirty South, Fat Boy Slim or Richie Hawtin.


2) Empirica

Jakarta's SCBD is the best area in the city for a fun night out. The massive Empirica is always as fun and popular, I love their 50m long bar, the chic crowd and the great sound-system.


3) Mille's

Mille's is an unusual 3rd choice and most people would not like it. It is the only decent underground club in the city, and the best place to visit after hour. Be warned that for most people partying in Mille's, the only cocktail they need is ecstasy and water. The best time to visit is after 7am.


4) Colosseum

Colosseum is the best nightclub in Jakarta on the paper: The best layout, the best sound and lighting system and some of the best events. Yet, the crowd is mostly static and not very fun to hang out with. It is also quite far from the City center.


5) X2 / Equinox


X2 is the favorite nightclub of many clubbers in Jakarta. If you are a 20-something foreigner looking to meet an Indonesian girl (and vice versa), it is certainly your best choice. The entrance and the drinks are expensive.


6) Immigrant

Source: TM Projects
I used to love Immigrant, but it has lost some of its appeal after their 2014 renovation. It is now smaller, without the possibility to go on the terrace to relax. It is still popular with expats and girls looking to meet expats.


7) Fable

If you are between 18 and 22, Fable could be your hottest party spot. You have all the cool kids from high school getting drunk with dad's money, which is even nicer when you get invited to a table.


8) Domain

5-year old Domain Club can have some great nights, but it is inconsistent. The crowd is a bit older than elsewhere, probably because it is made of those who used to go to Embassy 10 years ago. Recent events included a performance by the porn star Sasha Grey.


9) Golden Crown

Golden Crown is a typical North Jakarta nightclub with a high level of drugs and prostitution. It is almost always crowded, mostly with Indonesians. It is a sure bet if you want to go clubbing during weekdays and if you don't mind its seedy side.


10) Illigals (Voyeur Club)


Illigals is very rarely crowded. Forget it during the week unless they have a big name coming. Still, it deserves to be in the Top 10 because they have a decent list of events. Many DJs from Stadium are now playing in Illigals too.


Bonus: Dragonfly

Dragonfly is currently closed for renovation. Once it reopens, I am quite sure that it will become once again one of Jakarta's Top Nightclubs.

Need more clubbing ideas? Check Exodus, Nebula, Umbra, Potato Head Garage. All of them are usually busy on Friday and Saturday nights and they have special events on a regular basis.

Photo credit: Main photo Chris Seward - Other Photos from Facebook.

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Favicon Top 10 Best Bars in Jakarta in 2015
28 May 2015, 4:16 pm
As promised on my Jakarta Nightlife 2015 review, I am updating the blog with my list of Jakarta's best venues in 2015. 

For more recommendation about the best bars in the city, you can check my review about Jakarta's Best Beer Bars and Beer Garden. You may also want to read last year's ranking: Jakarta's Best Bars 2014.

More rankings coming in the next few days: Best Clubs, Best Spas, Best Live Music.

Regarding this year's best bars, I made the list based on my personal preferences only. If you are a Western expat in your 30s, you will probably find it relevant. If you think a bar should be included here, please drop me a comment and I will visit the place if I haven't done it already.

In this month of April 2015, my favorite bars in Jakarta are:

1) Cloud Lounge
Cloud is the best place for a drink in Jakarta in my opinion. You have good music, good people, good view, good service and good food/drinks. I only wish it could become more wild sometimes late at night.

2) Safehouse
The newcomer Safehouse is small and not particularly pretty, but it may have the best music in Jakarta. Visit it if you are into electronic music (and expats).

3) Loewy
The ever popular Loewy is always happening, especially in the evenings around its main bar. Lots of expats and lot of expat hunters.

4) Potato Head Garage
Potato Head Garage is not always happening, but when it does it is usually for fun events with a great crowd. Visit it on weekends only.

5) Lucy in the Sky
Popular hangout for the cool kids in Jakarta. 

6) SKYE
First rooftop bar in Jakarta, similar to Cloud with a slightly less impressive view. The service gets messy when they are busy.

7) BATS and CJs
Band in CJs
Some people prefer BATS, some people prefer CJs. Both are quite similar if not identical: They are hotel bars with live music and a crowd of husbands having fun away from home.

8) E&O
Primarily a restaurant, their bar can be a great place to go for a drink on the right evening. They are serving among the best cocktails in Jakarta.

9) 365
Alternative bar with usually a good music selection and an interesting crowd.

10) Potato Head - Social House - Union - Cork & Screw
Union in Plaza Senayan
Those places have been around for half a decade now, which is an eternity in Jakarta. They are not exactly bars but they are still popular with upmarket Indonesians who want to drink and hangout.

Update May 2015:
Several friends criticized the fact that I didn't mention Bauhaus in my Top 10 of Jakarta's Best Bars 2015.

It is indeed a nice place that I unfortunately visited during Ramadan so it didn't give me the best impression.

According to my friends, Bauhaus is among the trendiest places in Jakarta for younger expats and rich Indonesians. You can read my review here: Bauhaus Jakarta.

As you may have noted, there are 14 bars listed above. Indeed, Jakarta's Top 14 Bars did not sound well to my ears. Photo Credit: I took the liberty of taking them from each venue's facebook page.

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Favicon Top 10 Beer Bars, Pubs and Beer Gardens in Jakarta in 2015
28 May 2015, 4:16 pm
Starting 2015, you are normally not allowed to buy any alcohol, including beer, from minimarts all over Indonesia. It should take a few months before someone smart finds a way to bypass the law so until then, you'll need to find a friendly and cheap bar to grab a beer when needed.

Beer bars are not difficult to find in Jakarta so to avoid listing 100 venues, I made a choice with the following considerations in mind:

Is the place crowded? Does it have a large choice of imported beers? Is it friendly? Does it have regular events? Is it popular with expats? Is it affordable? Does it have good food? Is the atmosphere appealing?

The more YES I answered to those questions, the higher the ranking. Please comment below if you want to add a venue. 

For those looking for a place to celebrate St Patrick Day's or Oktoberfest, it is a good list to start with as well.
Sorry to that guy for posting this photo. I hope his boss is not a reader.
1) Beer Brothers (Kemang)
Large choice of beers, mixed crowd of locals and younger expats, easy-going.

2) Beer Garden (Menteng, Kemang, SCBD, Radio Dalam)
All their locations are usually packed. Crowd mostly local.

3) Paulaner Brauhaus (Grand Indonesia)
High end beer bar. Good food, large choice of beers including their own Paulaner.

4) Brewerkz (Senayan City)
Singaporean owned. Rather posh and neat. They have their own micro-brewery.

5) De Hooi (Pondok Indah)
Friendly expat bar, many regulars, great food menu.

6) Eastern Promise (Kemang)
Meeting point of most expats in Kemang. Always happening. Good music.

7) Murphy's (Kemang)
First irish pub in Jakarta. Friendly staff and good management.

8) Molly Malones (Senayan Arcadia)
Second irish pub in Jakarta, same owner as Murphy's.

9) De Burse (SCBD)
Same owner as De Hooi and Eastern Promise. Similar concept but more intimate setting.

10) Liquid Exchange (Rasuna Said)
Reasonable prices, good location, eclectic crowd and decent choice of beers.
The following bars and beer garden almost made my list but finally didn't:

Melly's Garden: Uncomfortable
The Barrels in Kelapa Gading - Too much noise from La Piazza Mall
Joglo Beer in Kemang - Not visited yet
Brew & Co Cilandak- No visited yet
Top Gun in Blok M - Too loud, too dirty, too noisy, too many prostitutes
Pizza e Birra - Horrible food
Aphrodite in Taman Rasuna and Mad Dogs in Cilandak - Getting old now
Minus 2 - A bit far in PIK
Double Doors - Not city center
La Bière - Central Park - Not a fun crowd
Jimm's Sports Café and Everest Bar in Bellagio: Almost made it
Bremer in Kemang: Haven't been there in a long time and I don't know if it still exist

Photo credit: Pictures taken freely from the facebook page of Beer Garden and Beer Brother. 

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Favicon Jakarta Nightlife in 2015
28 May 2015, 4:32 pm
Jakarta nightlife has been a bit disappointing recently. After living over 10 years in Jakarta, 2015 is so far my worst year in the city when it comes to party. Here are 6 reasons why:

Read also: Jakarta Nightlife 2014 - Saigon Nightlife 2015 - Medan Nightlife - Bandung Nightlife - Bali Nightlife - Batam Nightlife.

1) Less craziness, more rules

As Jakarta is becoming more developed, its unique craziness is starting to diminish: Stadium has been closed, probably for political reasons, just months before the Presidential election. It hasn't really been replaced yet. Illigals organizes parties regularly with the resident DJs of Stadium but it is absolutely not the same. The club is rarely crowded and it closes early. Other people go to Colosseum, which I find impressive and worth a look, but totally boring. Most of the crowd there is made of males, glued at their tables with escorts from Alexis. It also closes early. The best choice would be Mille's, especially if you are looking for an after-hour venue, but it only attracts the hardcore clubbers using drugs. If you are not into drugs, you won't manage to stay in Mille's for more than an hour. The karaoke rooms of Golden Crown or Level 5 in Kelapa Gading can be used as small, private clubs and they can be considered as an alternative if you are with a group of friends.

2) Few new interesting bar and clubs openings

Apart from Stadium, Red Square and Millenium too have been closed. To compensate, not many new openings. You have Nebula in Central Park which is not really happening. Kemang has its new favorites but I can't keep up with the scene there. Immigrant has been renovated and it is a disappointment now, I've stopped going there. Blowfish's renovation on the contrary was a success and it might be the best club in Jakarta at the moment.

The hottest/hippest nightlife area in Jakarta in 2015 is in SCBD, not far from Pacific Place. The lease of this land is supposed to expire soon so all those bars and clubs are built for a short time only. You have the "old" places like Fable, Lucy in The Sky, Potato Head Garage, Empirica. Each of these bring their own kind of crowd: Fable the spoilt kids from international high schools, Lucy in The Sky the spoilt students, Potato Head Garage the spoilt young executives, Empirica the spoilt young Chinese. The area has welcomed new bars and lounges too such as Hide and Seek. On weekends, all of these will be packed so it's easy for you to move around and to find which one best suits you. During the week, it is much more quiet unless there is an event.

3) Hipsters aren't my thing

Most of the new trendy places have been targeting Indonesian wannabe hipsters. The hipster trend is great for business: Basically, you can charge premium prices for people to hangout in dumpsters and receive zero service. I love underground places when they charge underground prices. But places like the ones mentioned above (+ a few like Bauhaus, Awan Lounge, etc.) are abusing. I hope this trend will fade as it has become ridiculous. 5-star hotels restaurants with great service and setting are sometimes cheaper.

4) Poor music

Almost all the clubs and bars in Jakarta have completely given up on trying to be original in terms of music. Apart from a few exceptions such as Safe House, Cloud, Skye or 365, the music played is mostly horrible. Clubs have no identity and they all seem to be satisfied with the current mainstream hits. I don't want to sound too snobbish, but hearing weeks after weeks and clubs after clubs the same songs over and over again makes me depressed. I don't understand why they have a DJ since the guy just plays the same mix-tape every night. There are so many great musicians and DJs, it's not too hard to check on internet what is going on in the world of electronic music. Your only chance at hearing good music in a club in Jakarta is to patiently wait for a "famous" invited international DJ to play. Fortunately there is one about once a week either in Blowfish, Dragonfly, Illigals, X2 and others.

5) One of Asia's most expensive nightlife

The cost of clubbing has dramatically increased in Jakarta. It is quite hard to have a decent night out without spending at least 2M rupiah in entrance fees (200,000rp is standard in upscale clubs), drinks (easily reaching 150,000rp/glass), food or taxi fares. If you are into paying for girls or massage parlours, it will be even more. The most famous clubs are also increasingly segregating customers between those booking tables/bottles and those simply ordering drinks at the bar. It is probably the curse of every city to become more pretentious as it develops but it surely makes me feel nostalgic. On the other side, in the absence of real bouncers, the entrance of clubs and lounges is regulated by overzealous hostesses and security guards who will let in a guy wearing a 10$ polo short but refuse entry to another guy wearing a 300$ branded t-shirt.

6) More and more tourists

On weekends, the clubs and bars have become full of expat tourists from Southeast Asia's other capital cities. X2 was once a club with 20 or 30 "bules" maximum. Now you have at least 100 on weekend nights. Same things in Immigrant, Dragonfly, etc. I am a foreigner too so I'm not in a position to criticize it too much, but I just regret the time when Jakarta was more authentic and less international. It seems people were more friendly then too. Naturally, tourists are one of the reasons the prices are going up.
Jakarta was much better in 1950
Some people still come to Jakarta thinking it is a 24-hour clubbing city. Unfortunately, apart from the most extreme clubs in North and West Jakarta, you will most likely be home by 5am. It is still not bad compared to other cities in Asia, but it is another sign that Jakarta is becoming a more reasonable city. 

In spite of all this, I still consider that Jakarta nightlife is among the best in the region. My Jakarta Nightlife 2014 guide is still rather up to date except for the closing of Stadium, Red Square and Millenium. Most places haven't changed: CJs, BATS, Golden Crown or 36 are the same as they were 5 years ago. With all the talk about fighting drugs we hear from Jokowi, I am also surprised that some ecstasy factories like Sydney 2000, Exotis or Mille's still exist.

I will also post in a few days my recommendation for the best clubs, bars, restaurants and spas in 2015. In the meantime, please comment on this article if you don't agree with me or if you have some interesting information for others to read. Thanks a lot!

Read more: The Best Bars in Jakarta in 2015

Photo credit: All photos were taken on Blowfish facebook page.

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Favicon 13 Illogical Facts About Drugs in Indonesia
12 May 2015, 1:32 pm

"Indonesia has some of the World's strictest drugs laws". 

This statement is repeated in most local and international media, but it is quite inaccurate if you look at the facts. A more realistic statement would be to say that Indonesia has some of the world's most inconsistent laws and policies against drugs.

The official rhetoric from the Government is that the country wants to protect the nation's children from the danger of drugs, yet the current policies are causing even more suffering while failing to stop drug use.

An example? Parents in Indonesia are required to denounce their own children if they become aware of them taking drugs. This causes drug users to hide their addiction to their family, and in the end prevent them from getting the support they need.

Unfortunately, there are quite many other troubling incoherences. I have found 13 of them as follow:

1) Sensationalistic speeches about drugs without any reliable statistical data


The National Drug Agency (BNN) has shown its incapacity in providing the public with credible statistics regarding the number of deaths from drug use in Indonesia.

Jokowi once spoke of 50 deaths per day, but after the figures were criticized, he started to use new ones: "33 people die of drug addition every day in Indonesia".

This number comes out of nowhere (it might be based on surveys) and it must be used with the utmost precaution. Furthermore, this number does not say whether these people died from overdose, from suicide, or from drug-related diseases such as HIV. It does not tell as well if those deaths were from heroin, ecstasy, marijuana, misused over-the-counter drugs, etc. 

Even if we consider 33 deaths per day, it means 12,045 deaths per year for a population of 250 M people. That's a 48 per million death rate.

Surprisingly, the Netherlands, one of the countries with the less punitive drug laws on the planet, has a 10.2 per million death rate only.

If the Indonesian statistics are correct, then we should wonder why the Indonesian death rate is 4 times as high as in the Netherlands. What is the point of having the World's strictest laws against drugs only to fail miserably?
    If the Indonesian statistics are incorrect, thus inflated, we have to wonder why would the government try to sensationalize the drug issue?

    I was reading an interview of one of Indonesia's top policemen, Budi Waseso, following the seizure of 2 tons of Marijuana. According to him, the 2 tons of marijuana could have killed 21 million Indonesians. This kind of statement is a proof of either abysmal ignorance or a deliberate will to fool people. 
    From The Jakarta Post
    The Indonesian medias are also very active in spreading questionable information. Metro TV was mentioning 117,400 potential victims of marijuana per day!

    2) Making the drug issue a national priority while ignoring other preventable causes of death


    Let's give the benefit of the doubt to Jokowi and consider that there are indeed 12,045 drug-related deaths every year in Indonesia. This data should be compared to other causes of avoidable death in the country:

    Tuberculosis: Indonesia has more than 90,000 deaths from tuberculosis every year, a preventable and curable disease. Most of the efforts to fight it are not coming from the Government but from international aid agencies, namely the Global Fund. Read More on the NY Times: Losing the Fight Against Tuberculosis

    The fight against Malaria, which used to be one of the top causes of deaths in Indonesia is mostly undertaken by International organizations as well and almost all of its funding is foreign:
    Financing of Malaria Programs in Indonesia (WHO)
    Car accidents:  In 2002, there were just over 8,000 road deaths every year in Indonesia. In 2014, that number rose to almost 40,0000 deaths, that's a 500% increase!
    Yet, you don't see the Government declaring war on potholes nor many campaigns of prevention. 

    Tobacco kills over 200,000 persons every year in Indonesia. The number of smokers is actually rising as Indonesia is failing to tackle the issue. Isn't it ironic that the top two richest men in Indonesia are legal drug sellers -> Budi Hartono (Djarum - 16,5 billion $) and Susilo Wonowidjojo (Gudang Garam - 8 billion $)?
    Don't Quit Smoking ? Advertising for LA Lights cigarettes
    I am not saying that drug is not a problem. On the contrary, like every issue, it requires rational and pragmatic solutions. Populist, emotionally-charged speeches about "saving the nation" and "waging war on drugs", based on questionable statistics, are actually damaging. They encourage only the most punitive solutions, the ones that have failed so far everywhere else in the world.


    3) Indonesia is the country in Southeast Asia that spends the less for healthcare (after Myanmar)



    While the Indonesian Government talks a lot about the health of its citizens and how it is threatened by drugs, it actually spends very little for them. According to the World Health Organization, only 2,6% of Indonesia's GDP is spent for healthcare. 

    This is to be compared with the spendings of the following countries: Vietnam 6,8%, Thailand 3,9%, Singapore 4%, Laos 4,5%, Malaysia 4,4%, Philippines 3,6%, China 5,1%, Cambodia 5,6%, Japan 9,5%, South Korea 6,9%.

    Only Myanmar is spending less as a percentage of its GDP, namely 2%.


    4) A War on Drug, but not a War on Drug-Related Deaths


    The efforts of Indonesia to prevent drug-related deaths are very limited. Most harm reduction programs currently existing are actually financed and led by Foreign donors. 

    Drug use and the spread of HIV are intrinsically linked as it is estimated that up to 50% of injecting drug users in Indonesia are contaminated with HIV.

    Reducing the number of drug-related deaths would require fighting against the transmission of HIV through needle sharing and educating drug users about safe sex practices.

    The budget to fight Aids in Indonesia is mostly financed by International sources, not by the Indonesia Government itself. Out of $50,831,105 allocated in 2010, only $19,841,442 was financed by the domestic/public sector and the rest by International donors.

    People would argue that Indonesia is a poor country and cannot afford to spend more money. What I would argue is that the Jakarta Council was able to find over $14 million dollars to purchase UPS systems that no one asked for. It seems that money can always be found when the objective is to fill the pockets of a few.

    Furthermore, Indonesia's strict drug laws have been known to worsen the difficulties for drug users. Harsh punishments will cause them to hide instead of seeking for help. If they do not have access to clean syringes, they are more likely to get HIV, and in turn, more likely to spread it to other people. The longer they are hiding, the longer the risk of spreading the disease.

    It makes me very confused about the objectives of the Government. Is it trying to help drug users as it pretends it is, or is it only interested in punishing them for making the wrong choices?


    5) More Indonesian on death row in foreign countries than in Indonesia itself


    In 2013, there were 188 Indonesians on death row abroad on drug charges (236 in total). This number should be compared to the only 56 Indonesians on death row in Indonesia.

    If we take Malaysia, it has 250 Malaysians on death row abroad, but 600 on death row in the country. This makes more sense to me.

    I find such an imbalance, more inmates abroad than in Indonesia, quite revealing: Most likely, Indonesians who are arrested in Indonesia for drugs can simply buy their way out to escape the death row while Indonesians arrested abroad cannot.

    What disturbs me is that it means poor people are more likely to be in jail while rich ones will not risk anything. According to Rudhy Wedhasmara, the founder of 'Empowerment and Justice Action' (EJA) Surabaya, an NGO that helps victims of narcotics: 

    "We see that in practice the majority of those who are caught, then eventually sentenced to death are those who are weak, psychologically vulnerable to exploitation, and pressed for financial crush".


    6) The executions target foreigners in priority, even though they represent only half of the death row inmates


    Foreigners are often subjected to harsher sentences than Indonesians, unless they can bribe their way out or benefit from mysterious help (see below about incoherences).

    Many people don't seem to understand how the death penalty works in Indonesia. When a death penalty sentence is given to an inmate, there is not a specific date given for his execution. He could spend the rest of his life waiting.

    In fact, the one who decides about the execution is the President. He is the one who chooses who should be executed and when.

    In January 2015, Jokowi hand-picked 6 persons to be executed, among which 5 foreigners. In April 2015, Jokowi selected 9 foreigners among 10 persons to be executed. 

    What is surprising is that there are only 35 foreigners on death row in Indonesia and 56 Indonesians. This mean that foreigners represent 87,5% of the executed, but only 38% of the inmates on death row.

    In several cases, it has been blatant that there is a discrimination between Indonesians and Foreigners. For instance, Frenchmen Serge Atlaoui was given the death penalty but the Indonesians who were running the lab he was working at were only condemned to a life sentence.


    7) Indonesia is sending drug users to prison instead of rehabilitation 


    "These young folks who have become drug addicts have lost their past and present so we should not allow them to lose their future. We should guide them back. They don't belong in a penitentiary but in a rehabilitation centre" Susilo Bambang Yudhono

    In spite of the recent efforts to build more rehabilitation facilities, 54,000 detainees in Indonesia in 2013 were drug users, out of a total of 162,000 inmates. This should be compared to the 18,000 only who were sent to rehabilitation the same year. 

    The first explanation is the law itself. Even though officially, Jokowi talks about drug users as victims who should be protected, the fact is there is little differentiation made between a drug user and a drug trafficker. 

    Even the 2014 amendment to the 2009 Drug Law stipulates that unless a drug user turns himself in to the police, he will face jail time. Judges and courts are themselves not following the law and sending people caught using drugs in prison most of the time.

    The other issue of course is the lack of rehabilitation centers. The Government talks about building more facilities, yet it still has to act on its promise. 

    Because of this, the prisons are full of simple users which is even more risky for them. They are more likely to keep using drugs in prison as it is known to be widely available there while being more exposed to risks of HIV. Read more on the UNODC website.

    In spite of the "save our children" speech, many Indonesians have a negative view about drug users and do not seem to be interested in rehabilitated them. 

    Even the Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, one of the largest Islamic organisations in Indonesia which is in charge of establishing drug rehabilitation centers in the country declared :"Drug addicts deserve severe punishment, namely death".


    8) Frequent cases of abuse of drug users by police officers, including rapes


    Another incoherence about the so-called will from the Indonesian Government to protect drug users is the fact that many of them, instead of being guided by the police are actually abused.

    There are several stories reporting these cases, but if you want to know more, I advise you to read the following: Abuses against injecting drug users in Indonesia

    According to this study, 60% of drug users faced police abuse during their detention time, including beating of the feet, hands, chest, and head by officers. Sexual abuses were mentioned in 6% of the testimonies.

    I also advise you to read this article about girls, sometimes prostitutes, who were gang raped by policemen so that they would not be charged with drug abuse.

    Again, are we trying to punish drug users or are we trying to help them?


    9) Celebrities, VIPs, Drug Lords, Policemen avoid harsher sentences


    Sentencing in Indonesia is extremely arbitrary. In general, VIPs, celebrities, policemen and military officers avoid prison and go directly to rehabilitation (if not home).

    For instance, when Putri Aryanti Haryowibowo, the great granddaughter of Suharto was caught using crystal methamphetamine, she avoided prison and was only sent to rehab (I wonder if she actually went).

    Raffi Ahmad, a local celebrity, has not been tried yet more than 2 years after being arrested with several types of drugs.

    The Head of Shariah Police in Aceh, Zulkarnain, crashed his car into a tree in 2013. Hashish was found in his car and he tested positive for drugs. Nothing happened to him. He actually threatened a journalist that if he reported on the story he would be turned to ashes.

    Leeza Ormsby, from Australia, was less lucky and she spent 9 months in jail for a joint. A 14-year old Australian boy also spent 2 months in jail for being caught with 3.6 grams of marijuana. Foreigners may have lenient sentences sometimes: Thierry Verchere did only 10 months after being caught with almost $50,000 worth of cocaine which is strange considering another Frenchman, Vincent Petrone, was sentenced to 6 years for 69 grams of hashish (less than $1,000 value).

    If you follow Indonesian news, you will read quite often about policemen or military caught using or trafficking drugs. Some reports, though a little dated, mention that it is very common for policemen to keep the drugs confiscated or to sell them.

    Yet, it is rare to hear of a policeman being jailed for drug use, and even more to be executed. On the contrary, in some cases it seems like they can benefit from preferential treatment: 34 policemen tested positive, nothing happened.

    More recently in April 2015, the death sentences of two Iranians were commuted to life in prison. This came as a surprise because simultaneously, Jokowi was refusing clemency to several inmates, among which some had shown signs of rehabilitation.

    The case of Hengky Gunawan is even more disturbing. He was caught with 11.1 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine and materials for drug’s production worth over $1 million but his death sentence was reduced to 15 years in prison and then to 12 years only.

    The proportionality of sentences is unfortunately inexistent in Indonesia and there is no improvement in sight on the subject. 


    10) Drug is mostly seen as an imported, Western problem


    For most Indonesians, the drug problem comes from Foreigners only. Medias and politicians are responsible for that as they tend to misrepresent it as if all the drugs traffic was in the hands of International traffickers. 

    They also often forget to mention that large quantities of drugs are produced in Indonesia to be exported. Naturally, since the problem is seen as a Foreign one, Indonesians are very supportive of harsher sentences against them.
    Drug use has actually been prevalent in Indonesia for centuries, even long before the Dutch arrived in the country. In the 17th century, numerous documents attest that the use of opium was widespread in Java. The habit of smoking opium by adding it to tobacco was developed in Indonesia before spreading to China. In other parts of Indonesia, some narcotics obtained from plants and trees have also been consumed for ages such as betel nuts in Nusa Tenggara or marijuana in Aceh.

    If you want to know more: Opium and Merchants in Batavia in the Long Eighteenth Century.

    The truth is, Foreigners are part of the problem, but also a big part of the solution. Rehabilitation centers, harm reduction programs, trainings and distribution of needles/medication are largely funded by International donors. 


    11) Nightclubs known to be ridden with drugs operate freely and are protected by the police



    When police raids or "Razzia" happen in North Jakarta clubs, the result is usually quite small: According to a BNN spokesperson, 100 drug users were arrested in 25 raids last year.

    If you have ever been to those clubs, you will understand that there is something wrong. A single raid in a place like Mille's or Golden Crown should cause at least 500 arrests.

    The BNN spokesperson also mention that after 25 police raids, they haven't caught a single drug dealer yet: ""Everytime a raid is held, we always encounter in drug users, but never caught a dealer or courier. This proves that drug dealers doesn't always appear in night clubs". 

    The BNN seems either very naive or very corrupted. I let you choose one.

    It is well known that clubs are always warned in advance when a police raid is planned, thus naturally no dealers will be present. Only a few people who have no clues, including foreigners, will be caught.

    After 25 unfruitful raids, maybe the BNN should make an investigation on who informs the clubs? Maybe the BNN should make an investigation on who owns those clubs?


    12) Impunity for the bosses of drug trafficking and drug distribution


    Since Jokowi has declared a war on drugs, I don't remember of a single mafia boss or big trafficker who has been arrested.

    In the past, as mentioned above, known traffickers suck as Hengky Gunawan have escaped not only the death penalty, but also life sentences.

    I invite you to read my article about the 30 Groups who Own Jakarta Nightlife to better understand this point. You will learn the links between Tomy Winata, one of Jakarta's alleged mafia boss with some notorious drug-ridden clubs in North Jakarta.

    While Indonesia is said to be at war against drugs, I was surprised of see that Tomy Winata paid all the expenses of a trip to Las Vegas on May 21st, 2012 to several police officials and high executives of the National Drug Agency (BNN) including Gories Mere the Head of BNN at that time.

    More recently, we could see Tomy Winata together with the new head of the BNN, Anang Iskandar to promote a "Drug Rehabilitation Program"[sic].
    Tomy Winata with the head of the National Drug Agency
    Top politicians like SBY, Megawati, or current Vice President Yusuf Kalla have been known to frequent him.
    Tomy Winata with Megawati, previous President of Indonesia, mentor of Jokowi
    Tomy Winata with SBY, former President of Indonesia
    Tomy Winata with Yusuf Kalla, current Vice President of Indonesia
    Even though Tomy Winata has never been convicted for drugs, he has also never been subject to an investigation.


    13) Indonesia is ignoring the fight against illicit financial flows


    According to the UN, the most effective method to fight drugs is to combine those three approaches:
    • Reduce demand with prevention programs and treatments
    • Reduce supply by dismantling drug trafficking organizations
    • Control illicit financial flows
    We have seen that prevention programs and treatments are ignored by the Government and mostly managed by International aid agencies. The fight against drug trafficking organization by the Government is just smoke and mirrors as it is mostly mules, drug users and small fish that are being caught.

    The Government is also failing at controlling its illicit financial flows. According to the Global Financial Integrity organization, Indonesia ranks 11th in the list of countries with the largest illicit financial outflows. In 2012 alone, over $ 20 billion left the country illegally, among which drug money.

    Yet, the Government has not shown any commitment in its fight against suspicious funds. Budi Gunawan, currently the number 2 of Indonesia's police force is known to have had over $7 million of suspicious money in his family's bank account. Yet Jokowi didn't push for a proper investigation...

    Bonus #14: Indonesia makes no differences between drugs


    Marijuana and ecstasy have been known to create less casualties and to be less addictive than alcohol, tobacco or other solvents that are easily available:
    Addiction and harm caused by several drugs (from The Lancet)
    Yet, Indonesians are made to believe that heroin, ecstasy, mushrooms or marijuana produce the same effects and create the same addiction. Acknowledging that those drugs are different would allow the government to implement more effective solutions.

    It makes no sense to send a marijuana or ecstasy smoker in rehabilitation as there is no addiction to the product. I don't see the point of sending these people to jail as well, unless we want millions of Indonesians behind bars. A fine would be more appropriate in my opinion.

    Heroin users should absolutely go to rehabilitation as it is proven that most of them cannot get rid of their addiction without medical help.

    If heroin and marijuana do not cause the same harm, it would be logic to give their traffickers differentiated sentences as well. 

    Conclusion


    I am convinced that there is a deliberate effort from the government and the medias to sensationalize the problem of drugs for political gain. I will end this article with a quote from Thích Nhất Hạnh, a buddhist monk and peace activist.
    If you are Indonesian, there are 80% chance you disagree with me. Please don't hesitate to comment, I'll love to have an interesting discussion about the topic.

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