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Tourists visiting Bali nightclubs face random police drug tests


Bernard O'Riordan
Monday August 29, 2005
The Guardian

Tourists visiting nightclubs on the Indonesian island of Bali are being subjected to random drug tests as part of a crackdown on gambling, drugs and prostitution.

With the clubbing season at its peak, attracting hundreds of thousands of young Australian and British tourists as well as wealthy locals, the authorities have moved to stamp out the trade in illicit drugs.

In a move which could deter tourists from visiting Indonesia, the authorities are forcing nightclub patrons to take roadside urine tests that were previously aimed only at people caught carrying drugs.

The crackdown, ordered by Indonesia's new anti-drugs police chief, Lieutenant-Colonel Bambang Sugiarto, is focused on trendy top-end clubs in Bali and the capital, Jakarta. More than 250 foreign tourists and locals, including celebrities and actors, have been arrested so far this year.

Bali's war on drugs follows a spate of arrests involving Australians, including 24-year-old model Michelle Leslie, who was allegedly caught with two ecstasy tablets in her bag at a dance party in the resort of Kuta, two weeks ago. She faces up 15 years in jail if convicted. At least 11 other Australians are in jail cells accused of drug violations.

Col Sugiarto said the arrests sent an anti-drugs message "to the next generation, not only in Australia, but in Indonesia".

"We tried to use educative and preventative efforts," he told Sydney's Sun-Herald newspaper. "After doing that, the people still use drugs. Since we have laws to uphold, we have to take action like launching raids, arrests."

"I think the Indonesians are right to crack down on drug use and trafficking," Australia's foreign minister, Alexander Downer, said last night. "The real deterrent is going to be the media stories there have been about people being arrested."

Australian federal police have been working with the Indonesian authorities to stamp out ecstasy production in the country.

An estimated 280,000 Australians visit Bali each year, second only to Japan's 350,000 annual visitors. Warnings about terrorism have seen the number of British travelers fall from 110,000 before the Bali bombings three years ago to about 60,000 last year - ranking it fourth behind Taiwan.

But with the Indonesian tourism industry only now recovering from the Bali bombings, there are concerns that random drug testing could scare tourists away.

The Association of Indonesian Entertainment Centre Owners said that 40,000 workers had already been laid off in Bali and Jakarta because customers had been deterred from going to nightspots.