Tourism and drug trafficking booming in Bali


Bali has become a haven for international drug gangs lured by ever-growing throngs of tourists, island officials have warned.

The holiday destination has had an increasing number of smuggling incidents, the most severe involving a 41-year-old Ugandan woman found dead in a Kuta hotel room in August with more than a kilo of plastic-wrapped crystal meth in her intestines.

This month a South African woman was arrested at Ngurah Rai airport with a similar amount in her underwear.

Trafficking cases in Indonesia involving crystal meth – or shabu-shabu as it is known locally – have increased from 200 cases last year to more than 700 in the first half of 2011, according to official figures. The drug is popular among young Indonesians, with a gram fetching roughly 2 million rupiah ($228US).

Bali, a Hindu enclave in a Muslim nation that regularly enforces the death penalty for drug offenders, needs more technology and expertise to stem the trafficking, according to Indonesia’s anti-drug agency.

An agency inspector, Tommy Sagiman, told a Bali-based drug enforcement conference this month: ”This worrying case of the Ugandan woman proves that Bali is now part of the international drugs network.” The conference was attended by 20 Asian countries and organised in conjunction with the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

Mr Sagiman called for tighter security, such as ion scanners and other modern screening facilities, at Bali’s ports and airports, ”especially with regards [to] foreigners who arrive in Bali”.

Despite suffering economically after the 2002 and 2005 terrorist bombings, and the 2008 recession, Bali is expected to attract about 2.76 million visitors this year, an increase of 11 per cent from 2010.