Indonesia Attempts To Calm Sentiments After Counterinsurgency Operation

A picture of Wamena, Papua, Indonesia, from 2019.

“The protest focused on the government, and in this case the security forces, for actions that the public considers immoral.”

Indonesia has been combatting separatist insurgents in its Papua region since 1965. While the long-running insurgency has ebbed and flowed, there has been a notable increase in tempo in the last five years.[i] The excerpted article from the Papua-based Indonesian-language media outlet describes Indonesia’s calculus in attempting to win over the Papuan civilian population despite their opposition to certain counterinsurgency operations.

The article focuses on the 17 September arrests adjacent to a Papuan church of five suspected members of the Free Papua Organization (OPM), which the Indonesian government calls the “Armed Criminal Group” (KKB). Indonesian police justified the operation by claiming the suspects’ confessions and cellphone content strengthened the evidence of their affiliations and support to KKB. According to the article, the operation enflamed local sensitivities because the house was behind a church and the officers broke down the doors of the house and scuffled with the suspects.[ii] Following the arrests, local Papuans began protesting the perceived desecration of church grounds. The local police chief and the head of the operation responded to the public dissent by meeting with the regional secretary, the chairman of the People’s Representative Council of Papua, the families of the five suspects, and the neighbors of the house where the arrests occurred, explaining the legal process and providing justification for the arrests. In addition, as per the second excerpted article from the independent online Catholic news agency Union of Catholic Asian News, on 22 September, the police chief acknowledged that police engaged in violence and encouraged officers to maintain professionality to not provide any reasons for critics to use their actions to discredit the security forces. The response demonstrates Indonesian authorities’ determination to defuse controversy over the arrests to avoid losing the support of the local population.


“Tangkap 5 Warga Sipil di Nduga, Polisi: Mereka Diduga Kuat Dukung KKB (Police Arrest 5 Civilians in Nduga: They Allegedly Strongly Support the KKB),” (Papua-based Indonesian-language media outlet claiming to provide the most current and accurate news from Papua), 18 September 2023.

Nduga Police Chief Commissioner Vinsensius Jimm, through the operational head, AKP Bayu Pratama Sudirno, confirmed the arrest of five civilians by personnel. The police suspect that the five civilians are KKB supporters in the area. “This is because of the perpetrators’ confessions regarding their participation [in KKB], which is supported by documentation such as photos on the confiscated cellphones,” stated the operational head in his written statement.

The arrests were made in one of the houses in the neighborhood behind the church. At the time of the arrest, there were attempts of resistance, such as locking the door from the inside to prevent the officers from entering, which resulted in a clash and attempts to push the officers when they were making the arrests…. The local community and congregation from several churches staged a protest. The protest focused on the government, and in this case the security forces, for actions that the public considers immoral.

Because of this, the Nduga police chief accompanied by the operational met directly with the Nduga regional secretary and the chairman of the DPRD to discuss the arrest process. [They] also met the families of the five individuals who were arrested as well as other residents at the house where the arrests were made.

“Indonesia police slammed for violent action inside church, (independent online Catholic news agency reporting on multiple Asian countries), 22 September 2023.

The Secretariat for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation of Jayapura Diocese and Papua Bureau of Union of Churches in Indonesia joined the coalition in condemning the incident and demanding action against the police personnel involved in the incident. Papua Police Chief Mathius Fakhiri said the five people were arrested because they had links to an armed criminal group, a term used by the Indonesian government for those fighting for Papuan independence. Fakhiri though admitted there “had been acts of violence by the police” and said he “had admonished the local police chief to act professionally.”


[i] Data collected by Amnesty International Indonesia showed that at least 179 civilians, 35 Indonesian soldiers and nine police officers, as well as 23 Papuan insurgents were killed in clashes between the insurgents and security forces between 2018 and 2022. In contrast, a fewer 95 people were killed in the eight previous years from 2010 to 2018. See, “West Papua Liberation Army fighters linked with kidnapped pilot Phillip Mark Mehrtens killed in clash,” 2 October 2023. See also Amnesty, “Indonesia: Police and military unlawfully kill almost 100 people in Papua in eight years with near total impunity,” 2019.

[ii] Catholic and Protestant churches have long “played a leadership role through developing the ‘Papua Land of Peace’ campaign calling for dialogue, demilitarization and respect for human rights” in Papua. The churches also have been among the most critical and influential voices against Indonesian military activities in Papua and are seen as “representing the overwhelming majority of Papuan opinion.” Jason MacLeod, “The Struggle for Self-Determination in West Papua (1969-present),” International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, March 2011.

Image Information:

Image:  A picture of Wamena, Papua, Indonesia, from 2019.
Attribution: Spasimir Pilev, CC x 2.0

Indonesia Extends Counter-Drug Trafficking Cooperation to South America

National Narcotics Agency (BNN) logo.

National Narcotics Agency (BNN) logo.

“I have just carried out a working visit as Chair of the Indonesian Delegation to several countries in South America in order to anticipate the entry of cocaine and other trafficked narcotics into Indonesia…”

According to the excerpted article from centrist Indonesian-language website, Indonesia’s National Narcotics Agency (BNN) is now cooperating with South American countries to prevent the entry of cocaine and other narcotics into Indonesia.  In the article, BNN head Petrus Golose discusses his recent working visit to South America.  Although he notes that narcotics trafficking in South America has not yet directly affected Indonesia, it is necessary to address because Indonesia has seen an increase in domestic drug use and could become a destination country for illicit South American drugs.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry’s website,, discusses the BNN delegation’s visit to Panama in particular.  Indonesia is concerned about Panama’s role as a drug trafficking hub, albeit not a producer.  Indonesia intends to share best practices with Panama in terms of law enforcement strategies to counter drug trafficking.  A memorandum of understanding between the two countries was signed, marking the first time Panama has ever cooperated with an Asian country to combat drug trafficking.

Indonesian-language media outlet reports that there had been a surge in narcotics arrests in Indonesia, peaking in 2018, and decreasing since then.  According to the data, North Sumatra is the most affected region.  Marijuana is the most seized drug followed by methamphetamine and ecstasy.  Given that cocaine dominates narcotics trafficking from South America, these facts indicate that Indonesian counter-narcotics initiatives with South American countries is a longer-term preventative measure.


“BNN Jalin Kerja Sama dengan Negara-Negara di Amerika Selatan Cegah Masuknya Kokain dan Peredaran Narkotika Lain (BNN Cooperates with Countries in South America to Prevent the Entry of Cocaine and Other Narcotics from Circulating),” (considered neutral Indonesian language media source), 9 June 2022.

Head of the National Narcotics Agency of the Republic of Indonesia (BNN RI) Petrus Reinhard Golose said that his team was cooperating with a number of countries in South America to prevent the entry of cocaine and other trafficked narcotics into Indonesia. Golose explained that the cooperation that BNN has established with countries in South America targets areas around the Andes Mountains. The head of the NNA confirmed that although the circulation of cocaine took place in the Americas, it was possible for Indonesia to become one of the destination countries for the circulation.

Source: “Panama – Indonesia untuk Pertama Kalinya akan Melakukan Kerja Sama Penanggulangan Narkoba (Panama – Indonesia for the First Time to Conduct Drug Countermeasures Cooperation), (website of the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), 25 May 2022.

With the support of the Indonesian Embassy in Panama City, the Head of the National Narcotics Agency and his team held a meeting with ministerial-level officials…. Panama itself is not a drug-producing country, but is a hub area for drug dealers in Latin America who come from surrounding drug-producing countries…. In this case, Panama and Indonesia can share experiences both in handling and tackling the use and distribution of drugs, as well as proper law enforcement techniques for dealing with drug issues.

Source: “Jumlah Tersangka Narkoba Menurun dalam 3 Tahun Terakhir (Number of Drug Suspects Decreased in the Last 3 Years),” (web-based Indonesian language media outlet), 29 May 2022.

According to a report by the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), the number of suspects in narcotics and illegal drugs or narcotics cases in Indonesia has decreased over the past three years. However, if one looks at the trend, since 2009 the number of narcotics suspects has tended to increase, with a record high of 1,545 people in 2018.

Image Information:

Image: National Narcotics Agency (BNN) logo
Source: Kampung Jawa,
Attribution: CC x 2.0

Indonesia Upgrades Naval Submarine Fleet

Submarine KRI Nagapasa, Indonesian Navy.

Submarine KRI Nagapasa, Indonesian Navy.

“Yudo explained that the plan to purchase Scorpene submarines had undergone a long evaluation in order to modernize the equipment of the Indonesian Navy’s weapons systems.”

Recently, Indonesia acquired two Scorpene submarines from France, modernizing its navy’s weapons systems.  The accompanying articles from local sources provide insight intotwo factors that prompted Indonesia to pursue new submarines.  First, China has repeatedly entered the waters of the North Natuna Sea, which Indonesia claims as its exclusive economic zone and China asserts is within its so-called nine-dash line.  The Natuna Sea is important for both countries’ economies due to its substantial oil and gas reserves.  Second, in April 2021, an Indonesian submarine sank off the coast of Bali, killing 53 crew members.  The 44-year old submarine’s sinking highlighted the age and vulnerability of Indonesia’s aging submarine fleet and the need for an upgrade.  The next step for Indonesia is to receive training on operating the Scorpene submarines and acquire the necessary spare parts and an air-independent propulsion system.


“Prabowo Bakal Beli 2 Kapal Selam Scorpene, KSAL: Kita Sudah Cek, Kita Setuju (Prabowo will Buy 2 Scorpene Submarines, KSAL: We Have Checked, We Agree),” (historically pro-government and nationalist-leaning Indonesian-language news source), 5 March 2022.

The Chief of Naval Staff (KSAL) Admiral Yudo Margono agreed to the plan to purchase two Scorpene ships from France. According to Yudo, the Scorpene submarine is a submarine that meets the requirements to be able to operate within the confines of Indonesian waters…. In addition, Yudo explained that the plan to purchase Scorpene submarines had undergone a long evaluation in order to modernize the equipment of the Indonesian Navy’s weapons systems.”

Source: “Indonesia to ramp up submarine fleet in response to Chinese incursions,” (news source covering Indian and Asian current affairs), 30 May 2021.

In response to repeated Chinese incursions into its waters, Indonesia aims to expand its submarine fleet by as much as triple its current line to 12 total vessels, according to multiple defense sources.

This comes after the Indonesian submarine that went missing off the coast of Bali with 53 crew members on board sunk last month, killing all crewman.

Image Information:

Image: Submarine KRI Nagapasa, Indonesian Navy.
Source: Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL),_Indonesian_Navy.jpg
Attribution: CC x 2.0

Indonesia Takes Measures Against Chinese Naval Incursions

Singaporean Navy RSS Tenacious and RSS Justice along with Indonesian Navy KRI Diponegoro and KRI Malahayati during 2021 Eagle Indopura Joint Exercise.

Singaporean Navy RSS Tenacious and RSS Justice along with Indonesian Navy KRI Diponegoro and KRI Malahayati during 2021 Eagle Indopura Joint Exercise.

“China is showing its strength. It not only objected to Indonesia’s drilling operations on [Indonesia’s] own territory, but also sent coast guard ships to the area to pressure Indonesia.”

On 15 January, the mainly centrist leaning Indonesian-language website of Republika Merdeka,, published the excerpted article on Indonesia’s evolving strategy towards China in the South China Sea and adjacent waters.  According to the article, China forced Indonesia into conflict due to Chinese coast guard ships’ encroachment into the Natuna Sea, and Chinese demands that Indonesia not extract resources from that sea.  The article notes that Indonesia argues the sea is part of its internationally recognized exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and is unwilling to acknowledge in the international arena that any dispute exists over its own maritime territory.

The article examines Indonesia’s strategy of outreach to navies in Southeast Asia, which are also seeing China make competing assertions to their own South China Sea territorial claims.  For example, Indonesia invited maritime security officials from five other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members, including Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Vietnam, to a meeting in early 2023 to discuss responses to China’s assertiveness in the sea.  However, the article also concludes that China may take retaliatory actions against those countries if they participate in the proposed meeting.

In particular, the article focuses on Indonesia’s relationship with Vietnam.  The Vietnamese Coast Guard and Indonesian Maritime Security Agency, Baklama, signed a memorandum of understanding in January to cooperate on mutual maritime security.  In addition, the article noted that Indonesia was discussing with Russia’s state oil company to connect a pipeline from the Natuna Sea to Vietnam’s offshore network.  Indonesia already completed the drilling for this project, which, according to the article, Indonesia considered a Baklama victory over China.  It is unclear, however, what effect Russia’s increasing reliance on China because of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine might have on Indonesia’s pipeline project with Russia.

In anticipation of any Chinese naval actions to take control of the Natuna Sea, the article notes that Indonesia is strengthening its defenses.  This includes building an additional runway to improve aerial surveillance of the sea, as well as a new submarine base.  Further, the country is expanding defense cooperation with three countries outside of Southeast Asia, including Japan, India, and Australia, to deter Chinese naval operations in the Natuna Sea.


“Indonesia Bersiap Menantang China di Laut China Selatan, Akankah Diikuti Negara ASEAN Lainnya? (Indonesia Prepares to Challenge China in the South China Sea, Will Other ASEAN Countries Follow?),” (mainly centrist leaning Indonesian-language website of Republika Merdeka), 15 January 2022.

China has officially opened another front in its hostilities in the South China Sea. China’s behavior ultimately pushed Jakarta to confront the defend its own territory because the disputed area by China was actually in the Indonesian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Jakarta has gone its own way by seeking support from the Russian state oil company Zarubezhneft to construct a pipeline in the Natuna Sea to link up with Vietnam’s offshore network. Indonesia’s Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla) has claimed success in the endeavor, which some analysts have called “Indonesia’s great victory over China.” China had repeatedly reminded Indonesia to stop the project and stated it was a violation because it infringed on Chinese territory. China is showing its strength. It not only objected to Indonesia’s drilling operations on its own territory, but also sent coast guard ships to the area to pressure Indonesia

The latest initiative that Indonesia has taken is to invite officials in charge of maritime security from five other ASEAN countries to meet early next year to discuss how to respond to China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea. The Vietnam Coast Guard and the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency last month also signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in strengthening maritime security and safety between the two powers. And the Indonesian military is extending the runway of an air base so that additional aircraft can be deployed, along with constructing a submarine base and developing defense cooperation with Japan, Australia, and India.

Image Information:

Image: Singaporean Navy RSS Tenacious and RSS Justice along with Indonesian Navy KRI Diponegoro and KRI Malahayati during 2021 Eagle Indopura Joint Exercise.
Source: Dispen Koarmada II (II Fleet Command Information Service)
Attribution: CC x 2.0

Indonesia Casts Wide Net in Terrorism Arrests

Densus 88 element raid.

Densus 88 element raid.

“Jamaah Islamiyah is estimated to have 6,000 to 7,000 members and sympathizers spread throughout Indonesia in its various branches and is thought to have infiltrated various government and civc institutions.” 

Indonesia’s special counterterrorism detachment, Densus 88, conducted a series of arrests in late November targeting members of Jamaah Islamiyah (JI).  According to the excerpted article from Indonesian site, which focused on domestic affairs, the scope of the arrests was unprecedented.  The article notes the arrests extended not only to JI itself, but also to the Indonesian Ulema [Islamic Scholars] Council (MUI).

According to the article, JI has up to 7,000 members, some of whom have infiltrated government agencies and civic organizations.  The justification for arresting MUI members, therefore, is not that MUI itself supports JI, but that JI has infiltrated MUI.  The solution to JI’s infiltration of MUI, according to Indonesian officials cited, is for MUI to conduct more robust background checks of members it recruits. Although the recent arrests by Densus 88 of JI members has affected MUI, the latter’s scholars have shown approval for Densus 88.  The article reports that MUI announced that it supports the government’s efforts to root out terrorism and maintain the security and territorial integrity of Indonesia.  By working with the MUI, Indonesian authorities have been able to arrest JI and MUI members suspected of involvement in terrorism without alienating the MUI more broadly.  Indonesian-language also reported on 13 December that Densus 88 finally arrested one of the JI-affiliated suspects in the March 2021 bombing of a church in Makassar.


“Forum Santri Dukung Densus 88 Polri Tangkap Terduga Pelaku Teroris (Santri Forum Supports Detachment 88 Police Arrest Suspected Terrorist), (Indonesian public affairs focused media outlet), 25 November 2021.

Densus 88 Anti-terror Police have again arrested suspected terrorists who are affiliated with Jamaah Islamiyah, one of whom is an active member of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI). Jamaah Islamiyah is estimated to have 6,000 to 7,000 members and sympathizers spread throughout Indonesia in its various branches and is thought to have infiltrated various government and civic institutions.

The head of FOKSI emphasized that Jamaah Islamiyah should not only be viewed from the angle of terror attacks because its movement has entered into a socio-religious institutions in the community. Regarding the arrest of MUI individuals who are suspected of being linked to terrorism, he argues that terrorist network cells have infiltrated various circles and groups. He hoped that MUI would not be permissive to its administrators who support ideas of radicalism and terrorism. FOKSI conveyed that it supports the government’s efforts in eradicating terrorism in order to maintain the integrity of the country because the Indonesian people must receive safety and freedom from radicalism and terrorism.

Source: Densus 88 Tangkap Buron Teroris, Diduga Terkait Bom Gereja Katedral Makassar (Detachment 88 Arrests Fugitive Terrorist, Allegedly Related to Makassar Cathedral Church Bombing), (Indonesian language news outlet), 13 December 2021.

The Special Detachment (Densus) 88 Anti-terror Police arrested a suspected terrorist in South Sulawesi. The Head of Banops Densus 88 Anti-terror Police confirmed the information. He said the arrest was made last week. According to him, the perpetrator was included on the terrorist wanted list (DPO) and suspected of being linked to the bombing at the Makassar Cathedral Church in South Sulawesi on March 28, 2021.

Image Information:

Image: Densus 88 element raid.
Attribution: CC x 2.0