Banten-West Java Waters Are Hot Spot for Drug Trafficking: Officials

Anti-narcotics officials have identified the waters between the provinces of Banten and West Java as a key transit route for international drug trafficking.

Heru Februanto, head of the Banten chapter of the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), said on Sunday his office, the BNNP, had identified at least 11 trafficking rings transporting drug shipments by boat in the waters between Banten’s Lebak district and West Java’s Sukabumi district.

“We’ve uncovered some of the domestic drug syndicates operating in Banten province, while the BNN has identified international syndicates, some of which conduct their transactions in the middle of the sea,” he said in Serang, the provincial capital.

He did not say where the drug shipments were coming from, but revealed most of them were amphetamine-type stimulants.

His remarks came three days after police arrested three suspected members of an international drug syndicate at the Cikupa toll gate in Tangerang, Banten.

The suspects were found in possession of 126,000 ecstasy pills and drug-making equipment, valued at around Rp 37 billion ($3.8 million).

Police said the drugs were believed to have been smuggled from Malaysia to Medan, North Sumatra, by fishing boat, before being transported overland to southern Sumatra and from there taken by boat again into Banten for distribution in Jakarta.

A report released in February by the BNN and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime identified the manufacturing, trafficking and use of ATS drugs as the greatest drug threat facing Indonesia.

Police seized 1,161 kilograms of methamphetamine in 2011, an increase of 79 percent from 2010, according to the report, “Indonesia. Situation Assessment on Amphetamine-Type Stimulants.”

While cannabis remains the most widely used drug in Indonesia, consumption of methamphetamine has steadily increased over the past several years, particularly among laborers, students and commercial sex workers, the report said.

“Amphetamine-type stimulants use — particularly crystal methamphetamine — has expanded swiftly throughout Indonesia, both geographically and demographically,” Leik Boonwaat, the UNODC deputy regional representative for East Asia and the Pacific, said at the launch of the report in Jakarta.

Heru agreed the drug problem was steadily worsening and now affected all layers of society.

“We even have high school students in rural areas who have developed a drug habit and run the risk of getting AIDS because of their drug use,” he said.

“There are so many drug victims in society, so this is a problem that we have to make a concerted effort to tackle.”

Earlier this month, the Justice and Human Rights Ministry reported that more than 40 percent of the roughly 150,000 Indonesians in prison were there for drug-related offenses.

Heru said this was also the case in Banten, where “the majority of prison inmates are drug offenders.”