The head of Indonesia’s National Narcotics Agency (BNN) said Thursday that police should be prepared to shoot suspected drug dealers on the spot. His comments are the latest indication that senior officials in the country favor the sort of extrajudicial approach to suppressing the drug trade underway in the Philippines.
“People said that the BNN cannot shoot on the spot. Why not?” BNN chief Commander General Budi Waseso said, according to the Jakarta Post.
Waseso said “stern actions” were justified because “there are too few drug dealers who are dead, while they have killed thousands of people.” He then alluded to BNN claims that 15,000 Indonesians die every year because of drugs.
Those statistics were thoroughly debunked in 2015, when Indonesian President Joko Widodo cited them in reference to a national drug “emergency” he said was occurring.
In the Philippines, similarly bloated figures have been used to justify a brutal anti-drug campaign that has seen police kill at least 4,000 drug suspects since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016. (Thousands more Filipinos have been killed by shadowy vigilantes, which some investigations have linked with the police.)
Duterte and his allies have variously claimed between 3 million and 7 million are addicted to drugs in the Philippines. In May, Duterte fired the head of the country’s Dangerous Drug Board for hewing to a figure of 1.8 million drug users, based on the most recent national survey.
Earlier this month Widodo launched the National Program on the Eradication of Illegal Drugs and Drug Abuse in Indonesia, a multifaceted approach to tackling the drug trade that also includes educational initiatives.
However, his rhetoric has often aligned with that of the hardline BNN chief. In August the Indonesian president ordered police to shoot foreign drug dealers who “resist arrest” citing a “narcotics emergency.” The country’s police chief, General Tito Karnavian, has suggested police should shoot drug dealers on the spot and cited Duterte’s drug war as the source of his belief that capital punishment is an effective means to combat the drug trade.
In the past 10 months police have shot dead 42 drug suspects in Medan, the capital of Indonesia’s North Sumatra province, a local police commander told the Post. Amnesty International says that law enforcement agencies shot dead 55 people in the country between January and August this year.
Dave McRae, senior research fellow at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute told TIME in an August interview that although precise data on police operations in Indonesia is hard to come by he has charted an upswing in reports of police shooting drug dealers. “This upswing coincides with the hardening rhetoric about narcotics,” McRae said.