Sat, 16 Sep 2000

Gang in Besakih

I wish to relate a very disturbing experience I had when visiting the Besakih temple complex in Bali on Sept. 10, 2000.

On reaching the entrance to the temple complex, the tour group with which I was traveling was confronted by a group of young men. They informed us that we could only enter the complex if accompanied by one of them as a "guide", for which "service" we would have to pay.

When we indicated that we had no intention of paying them and tried to enter the complex, members of the tour group were obstructed from entering, threatened and subjected to insults. Having finally succeeded in entering, individual members of the group followed and harassed to the point where we feared a beating. Females were singled out for particular abuse.

All foreign tourists entering the site were subjected to the same treatment -- most appeared to consider it safer to pay up. On leaving the area, we complained to the site administrators, who offered an embarrassed apology. However, a travel operator in the area indicated that this behavior is well known to the authorities, being the subject of constant complaints.

I conclude the following from my experience: 1. Access by non-Balinese to Bali's most important sacred place is effectively in the hands of an unscrupulous gang, who openly intimidate and threaten visitors. 2. The Balinese authorities, civil and religious, are well aware of this but have taken no steps to expel the thugs. 3. If resolute steps are not taken against the gang, it is only a matter of time before a visitor is seriously assaulted in Besakih.

I call on the Balinese authorities to act without delay against the perpetrators, whose presence desecrates the sanctity of Besakih and the good name of Bali.


Dublin, Ireland