Indonesia: Arms Trade Thrives
on Corruption and Lax Patrols
(18 Jul 2002)
Inadequate naval patrolling and officials who The illegal arms
shipping can be paid off to turn a blind eye are the weak links
enabling a thriving weapons trade through which Thai middlemen
supply hundreds of guns, grenade and rocket propellers to the
Residents who live along the extensive coastline of the northern
Indonesian province frequently witness small shipments of weapons
destined for either the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) or
other criminal gangs.
The weapons are usually transported via small fishing boats,
according to him.
The GAM rebels frequently brandish imported weapons such as AK-47s
and M-16s but they also possess many locally made guns.
In West Aceh too, residents say they hear of fishing boats making
night visits to drop off weapons along the sparsely-populated
Neither the military nor the navy is prepared to say how many
weapons are smuggled into Aceh.
Over the past year, however, the military says it has captured
over 500 weapons, many of which are foreign-made.
Indonesia's over-stretched navy, which has just five ships to
patrol the Malacca Straits and the North and West Aceh coastline,
has failed to stamp out the lively smuggling trade.
It was virtually impossible for the navy to track the smugglers
with their tiny force.
The navy tries to patrol the North Sumatra and North Aceh coastline,
which faces the Malacca Straits, but many other areas such as
the beaches of West Aceh are under-patrolled.
The smugglers use small fishing boats which are fast and not
easily detected by the patrol boats.
According to local aid workers, smuggling is easy enough because
the military or police officials encountered at road checkpoints
can be bribed.
It is suspected that much of GAM's weapons were obtained from
the Indonesian security forces rather than from international
They can be easily bought and being locally-made are better suited
to the ammunition, most of which is sourced within Indonesia.
The underpaid military and police were often quite willing to
sell their weapons to the rebels or else to criminal gangs, he
The black market price of 20 million rupiah was still 10 times
more than the price the military pays to buy the same weapon from
the local weapons manufacturer.