New figures from the National Narcotics Agency, or BNN, suggest a slightly declining pattern of drug use in Indonesia. (Antara Foto/Saptono)

Narcotics Agency: Drugs Kill 33 Indonesians Daily, Not 40-50

BY : ERWIDA MAULIA

MARCH 10, 2015

Jakarta. Amid accusations that Indonesia has used faulty data to justify its executions of drug convicts on death row, the National Narcotics Agency, or BNN, suggested a modest decline in narcotics use in the country on Tuesday when it presented the latest relevant figures.

Bachtiar Tambunan, the deputy chief for community empowerment at BNN, said an estimated four million Indonesians were users of narcotics. This is a correction — albeit not drastic — to the figure that President Joko Widodo often cited to support his claims of Indonesia being in a state of emergency due to the supposedly high prevalence of drug abuse in the country.

Joko, in defense of his rejection of clemency appeals by drug convicts on death row, has said that 4.5 million out of 250 million Indonesians were drug users and that between 40 and 50 people died every day in the country because of drug abuse.

Bachtiar on Tuesday said Joko's figures were based on data from a few years back. Last year, though, BNN conducted another joint study with the University of Indonesia (UI)'s Health Research Center, and the result showed a new estimate of 4 million drug-using Indonesians as well as a death rate estimated at 33 succumbing per day because of drug use.

BNN divides Indonesian drug users into three categories: those who have "ever tried" using drugs, totaling approximately 1.6 million people; "regular" users who number 1.4 million; and drug addicts who add up to 943,000 people. Men still dominate the statistics, representing 74.5 percent of the total number, while women account for just 25.5 percent.

The mortality rate is based on a combined number of deaths due to overdose, polydrug use — when two or more drugs are used at the same time or on the same occasion — and deaths because of relapse after a long hiatus, Bachtiar explained.

The BNN deputy chief added that marijuana, crystal methamphetamine and ecstasy pills remained the most popular products among Indonesian narcotics users. These users are estimated to consume a total of 14 million ecstasy pills per year, and use marijuana or crystal meth a total of 158 million and 219 million grams per year, respectively.

"That is why we call this [drug situation] a state of emergency. During the past couple of months alone, BNN has seized more than one metric ton of crystal meth," Bachtiar claimed.

He added that children as young as 10 years old had been identified as drug users.

"The age of drug users ranges from ten to 59 years old," Bachtiar said, citing several findings over the past few years on drug use by elementary school students in several regions, including Jakarta, Bekasi, Medan and Jambi.

Economic loss from narcotics problems in Indonesia is estimated to have reached Rp 63 trillion ($4.8 billion) last year, he added.

Bachtiar further said Indonesia's problems with narcotics use continued to grow because of a number of factors, including law enforcement officers' inability to distinguish drug users from traffickers, resulting in many who fall into the first category being sent to prison instead of rehab.

"And that worsens the situation. Because when sent to penitentiaries, drug users will learn how to traffic drugs from drug dealers, including foreigners, who have vast experience in inter-city and international trafficking," Bachtiar asserted.

"Narcotics business generates quite a large sum of money so they can easily lure law enforcement officers [to help the business].... Imprisoned drug dealers are often still involved in the drug trade [outside jail]," he added.

Bachtiar also said the development of rehab centers for drug addicts had been largely abandoned, adding that the government only began paying attention to this matter two years ago.

Indonesia this year is targeting to send 100,000 drug users to rehab.

"The president actually wants 400,000 people to be sent to rehab, but we don't have enough rehab facilities yet. So rehabilitating 400,000 users will be our target for next year."

Furthermore, Bachtiar threw his weight behind the death penalty for drug traffickers, saying he believed it could have a deterrent effect but only "if carried out consistently."

Joko in December last year said that he had received clemency appeals from 64 inmates on death row in Indonesia, including drug and murder convicts, and that he would reject all of them.

This led to the executions of six inmates in January, including five foreigners, ending Indonesia's unofficial moratorium on executions of death-row inmates.

The second round of executions of ten inmates – also mostly foreigners — was originally scheduled for last month but has been delayed following requests for review filed by some of the convicts.

Amid escalating diplomatic tension with several countries, including with Brazil and Australia, due to the executions or planned executions of their citizens, Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi repeatedly defended the Indonesian president's war against drug crimes through capital punishment.

"There may be an impression as if we were happy [with the executions]," Retno said during a meeting with local media representatives in her office in Jakarta on Tuesday.

"I must emphasize that we're not happy doing this. We don't enjoy doing this. But this is the stance that the government is forced to take in order to enforce the law," she added.

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