Wed, 12 Mar 2003

Riau Police investigate international drug smugglers

Haidir Anwar Tanjung, The Jakarta Post, Pekanbaru, Riau

Riau Police are investigating the smuggling of medicine believed to be controlled by international drug smugglers for distribution in provinces across Sumatra and even as far as Jakarta.

Riau regional police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. S. Pandiangan told The Jakarta Post in Pekanbaru on Tuesday the illegal entry of these foreign-made drugs could not be separated from Riau's geographic location, sharing common borders with neighbors like Malaysia and Singapore.

"Though the contraband trade cannot yet be totally eliminated, the regional police are limiting the smuggling by imposing strict precautions and surveillance," said Pandiangan.

People in the provinces, according to him, are very interested in the cheaper drugs in view of the prevailing poverty, as "the foreign medicine is sold at relatively lower prices than local products."

Some of the smuggled drugs from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, in the form of capsules and herbal medicine are found not only in Riau but also in Java and Bali.

"Provisional reports show that Riau has become the main gateway for the illegal entry of drugs into Indonesia," Pandiangan added.

Andreas Herykahurifan, the executive director of Riau's Indonesian Consumer Foundation (YLKI), meanwhile said his monitoring team in the province had discovered over the last three months 72 kinds of illicit medicines from Taiwan and about 1,200 types from China in Pekanbaru.

He pointed out that besides causing a loss to the state, the medicine had a negative impact on users "because the drugs are not based on prescription and consumers may overdose, therefore great care should be taken."

Andreas also told the Post that the drug smugglers might also infiltrate the workplaces of medical practitioners in the provincial capital due to the lower prices.

"We have asked the police to track down the involvement of physicians in the sale of such medicines to their patients," he said.

Head of Riau's health office Ekmal Rusdi, however, strongly rejected allegations that doctors may be involved in the distribution. "That's impossible. Physicians would not put their reputation and future career at stake," he asserted.

"The lack of control and limited public knowledge of medicines are the main factors behind the spread of smuggled drugs in society," Ekmal concluded.