Violence erupts in Indonesia as fuel and transport prices go up

MEDAN, Indonesia (AP) — Flipping over cars and hurling rocks at police, thousands of rioters furious about price hikes rampaged in northern Indonesia on Tuesday in the worst outbreak of violence since the country’s economy buckled last year.
Helmeted police officers fired in the air to ward off mobs of looters who set fire to two homes and 14 cars and pelted hundreds of storefronts with stones, residents said.
Witnesses said several dozen people were injured, but there was no official count. At least 94 people were in police custody.
Looters pilfered shoes and clothing from shops within a several-block radius, while other rioters indiscriminately stopped cars, forced terrified motorists to get out, and then set the vehicles ablaze.
In the capital on Tuesday, police lobbed tear gas canisters and fired rubber bullets at rock-throwing students. At least five officers and 25 students were injured in two clashes, police and witnesses said.
The violence broke out after the government’s decision to increase prices of fuel and transportation amidst the country’s economic collapse.
While the public was bracing for a gradual reduction in state subsidies, few were prepared for Monday’s announcement of price increases of between 20 percent and 70 percent for fuel and electricity and bus and train tickets, among other items. Opposition politicians cried foul.
In chopping down subsidies, the government did make efforts to ease the burden on the poor. The price of kerosene, widely used by low-income families, was increased the least among fuels.
But that was not enough to contain the public ire. Bus drivers in the eastern city of Kupang refused to drive high school and university students to classes, and thousands of students marched in protest to the governor’s office.