Police: 2 die in violent Indonesian student protests


Plain-clothed police officers arrest a student protester during a rally in Makassar, South Sulawesi province, Indonesia, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. Protests continue in several cities in the country as students rallied against a new law that critics say cripples the country’s anti-corruption agency. (AP Photo/Bahauddin Raja Baso)

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — At least two people have died in violent demonstrations across Indonesia by students protesting a new law that they say has crippled the country’s anti-corruption agency, police said Thursday.

A student suffered chest injuries and died when riot police fired tear gas and water cannons Thursday to disperse hundreds of rock-throwing students who were attempting to reach a legislative building in Kendari, the capital of Southeast Sulawesi province, local police spokesman Harry G. Hart said.

Hart said doctors are determining the cause of death because police insisted they only use tear gas, batons and water cannons in dealing with student protests.

Separately, National Police chief Tito Karnavian said a man collapsed and later died in Jakarta when riot police shot multiple rounds of tear gas at a mob which tried to set fire to a police post and several vehicles on Wednesday.

Karnavian said the man was not a student and called him a rioter.

The demonstrators are enraged that Parliament passed the law last week reducing the authority of the Corruption Eradication Commission, a key body fighting endemic graft in the country.

They also oppose a bill creating a new criminal code that would criminalize or increase penalties on a variety of sexual activities.

Wiranto, the coordinating minister for politics, law and security, accused unidentified “third parties” of taking control of the student protests with the intent of blocking reelected President Joko Widodo’s formal inauguration on Oct. 20.

Wiranto, who uses a single name, did not provide any proof at a news conference that was also attended by Karnavian and military chief Hadi Tjahjanto.

“There is a political agenda using the student protests to overthrow the legitimate government in an unconstitutional way,” Karnavian said. He said some of the more than 200 protesters who have been arrested are not students.

The protesters are demanding that Widodo issue a government regulation replacing the new law.

Corruption is endemic in Indonesia and the anti-graft commission, one of the few effective institutions in the country of nearly 270 million people, is frequently under attack by lawmakers who want to reduce its powers.

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