Indonesia - Military involvement in the suppression of workers’ disputes and demonstrations

The army’s role in suppressing labour disputes and demonstrations has been made official. On 23 January 2018, the National Army of Indonesia (TNI) and the Indonesian Police (POLRI) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) entitled “TNI Assistance to the POLRI in order to maintain security and public order”. The MoU states that the scope of cooperation includes handling protests, labour strikes, unrest, social conflict, securing citizens and/or government activities that have conflict potential, and other situations that need assistance.

The Confederation of Indonesia Trade Union (KSPI) has called on President Joko Widodo to annul the MoU, noting that military involvement has often infringed and violated civil rights including workers’ and trade union rights. The new memorandum, it states, has the potential to infringe on citizens’ rights to express their thoughts and opinions and on the workers’ right to strike. It points to several examples where the TNI has been involved in protests such as the workers’ rally on the World Day for Decent Work on 7 October 2017, a protest about wages in front of the Jakarta City Hall (10 November 2017), and the dispersal and beating of student protesters by the TNI in Makassar (15 December 2017).

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