US man on the run after escaping notorious Bali prison

A US man convicted on drugs charges escaped Bali’s notorious Kerobokan jail in an early morning jailbreak with another American prisoner who was caught almost immediately, an official said. The pair made a break from the Indonesian resort island’s main prison by cutting a hole in the roof with a hacksaw, authorities said. It was not clear how they obtained the tool. Police are now scouring the palm-fringed island and handing out pictures of escapee Christian Beasley, a 32-year-old arrested in August for carrying 5g of hashish. Foreigners are regularly arrested for drugs offences on Bali.

Beasley was awaiting a sentencing in his case. It was not immediately clear how much jail time he was facing, but Indonesia has some of the world’s toughest drugs laws, with the death penalty available in some trafficking cases. Beasley’s accomplice in the escape, convicted thief Paul Anthony Hoffman, 57, was apprehended before he could make good on the escape. “Paul was immediately recaptured by the locals who saw him trying to escape while Christian, who climbed up before him, managed to run away,” Kerobokan chief warden Tonny Nainggolan told AFP. Hoffman is serving a 20-month sentence for robbing a number of convenience stores at knifepoint.

Kerobokan houses some of the country’s most notorious and high-profile inmates, including members of the so-called Bali Nine which plotted to bring heroin into Australia via Bali. Two members of the group have been executed. Jailbreaks are common in Indonesia, where inmates are often held in unsanitary conditions at overcrowded and poorly guarded prisons. In May, more than 200 inmates staged a mass breakout from an overcrowded prison on Sumatra island, while last year a convicted child murderer escaped from jail by putting on a woman’s Muslim veil, make-up and sunglasses and walking out past unsuspecting guards. [The Malay Mail Online December 11, 2017]


Move to blacklist criminals moving overseas to set up enterprise

Some Australians travelling overseas this Christmas could find themselves on a “black list”, turned around and sent home under a state and federal police move to block criminal suspects plying their enterprise offshore. The move is a marked shift in Australian policing tactics, where “disruption” is now to be used in lieu of just seeking traditional prosecutions. It comes as joint operations by the Australian Federal Police and overseas counterparts look at breaking up criminal elements of more than a dozen Outlaw Motor Cycle Gangs setting up operations overseas, notably Thailand, Indonesia and Dubai.

Already three members of the Finks group were turned around in Bali in the past fortnight while another three Hells Angels members in Thailand were raided, arrested and set to be deported for a range of alleged criminal offences. Thai police said they had a target list of Australians to arrest for several alleged offences, including some based on intelligence on their criminal exploits including a murder, and they would now be “black-listed” and not let back into the country.

News Corp Australia understands there is a progressive role of black-listing of Australian suspects with a number of South East Asian   countries based on a threshold of intelligence-based evidence as opposed to material to make an actual arrest and charge. Indonesian authorities including police and immigration have advised they are particularly looking at how to make it harder for known Australian criminal suspects to enter places like Bali, and have them black-listed for the whole of Indonesia.

AFP’s organised crime chief Commander Bruce Hill played down the list but confirmed the AFP was just advising through intelligence exchanges and leaving it up to Asian counterparts to make black list determinations particularly on OMCGs. “We are working very closely with regional partners and the AFP continues to share intelligence on OMCG members,” he said. “The Asian countries make an assessment whether that person is a threat to their local people. These countries can make an independent decision on whether they want to blacklist that person or not. Once you are black-listed you cannot enter or remain in that country.”

Cmdr Hill said he was keen to get away from the traditional paradigm and wanted to disrupt criminal enterprises attempt to set up narcotics and money laundering operations offshore and creating a nexus of other foreign nationals to gather for illicit profits. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton declined to comment. As reported yesterday, Asian authorities are moving to break up the largely Australian-led OMCGs setting up in their country particularly Thailand that is moving toward raids and law changes. [Herald Sun December 10, 2017]


Bali volcano: Relief effort underway to support thousands of displaced people

In Tianyar village in Bali, thousands of people are waiting to find out when, if ever, they will be able to return to their homes. As Mount Agung continues to spew clouds of white and dark gray ash as far as 7,600m into the atmosphere, Indonesians fear the volcano could be on the brink of eruption. The 3,000m volcano has shown a marked increase in activity over the last few weeks, stoking fears of an eruption similar to the one in 1963 that killed more than 1,000 people. Residents living within a 10km radius of the crater have been forced to leave their homes, with as many as 65,000 people living in shelters, according to Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency.

Organisations like the East Bali Poverty Project (EBPP) have risen to the challenge, seeking to provide shelter and food to thousands of displaced people. “I am proud of the resilience of these thousands of people, but sad that they cannot risk going home until Mount Agung has erupted or gone back to sleep,” East Bali Poverty Project founder David Booth told The Independent. The EBPP has been providing shelter and food to more than 750 people forced to flee the Desa Ban area, which sits just north of Mount Agung. “My heart was overflowing with both joy and sadness but also pride for the dignity our communities, from the young infants barely walking to the very old and wrinkled who all were steadfast and shared smiles.”

One woman who has benefited from EBPP’s services described having to move from shelter to shelter while she was pregnant, before being forced to have a cesarean section in order to have her baby safely. “Now, the baby is running a fever and has an infected umbilical cord due to the lack of washing supplies in the camp.” The mother, Wayan Tangkih, told photographer and Photographers Without Borders founder Danielle Da Silva she had to move from shelter to shelter after being forced to leave her home over fears of Mount Agung erupting. “I was really panicked, I was crying and traumatised,” Ms Tangkih told Ms Da Silva. “I have to bring along this little baby at such a young age. It worries me every day.” [Independent December 8, 2017]


A sleeping or a napping giant?

The head of the Central Agency for the Mitigation of Geological Disasters (PVMBG), Devy Kamil Syahbana, says the Mount Agung Volcano has suddenly become quieter as compared to its recent period of intensified seismic activity. As reported by, Devy said the newfound calm might mean that the molten lava that has made its way from deep below the mountain to the surface of the crater has hardened and solidified.

Explaining that once lava is exposed above ground to the atmosphere it will quickly cool and harden. Thus if lava resides for an extended period in the crater is will both thicken and harden over time. “If (the lava) hardens its mobility also decreases,” explained Devy on Sunday, December 3, 2017, during an interview at the Mount Agung Observation Post at Rendang, Karangasem.

He went on to explain that the question has now become whether or not the upward march of the lava has slowed because the mountain has depleted its energy source or is the lava’s pathway only blocked momentarily by lava that has hardened into a crust. Based on the recent experience of Mount Rinjani in Lombok, Devy related how, following an eruption of that volcano, he climbed to the peak to take lava samples. Saying: “I once climbed Rinjani to gather a lava sample a few hours – less than 24 hours – after an actual eruption. The lava had already begun to cool. How the lava cools depends on the surrounding atmosphere.”

Continuing to relate his experience with Mount Rinjani, based on the measurements of sulfur dioxide (SO2) found within the mountain’s lava he detected a dramatic decrease in that gas – amounting to a 20x reduction than the SO2 present during the eruption. The reduction of SO2 can happen when the energy driving the eruption has dissipated or then the lava channels have somehow become blocked and can portend a coming eruption. Measurement done at Mount Galeras in Mexico just before it erupted also showed reduced levels of SO2 at the mountain’s peak. Merpati in Central Java also showed reduced levels of SO2 in 2010 prior to a major eruption. [ December 3, 2017]


Bali still top destination for Australian travelers

Bali is still the favorite destination for tourists from Australia. Some Australians have even considered the Island of the God as their second home, which has made Bali’s tourism survive despite the frequent activity shown by Mount Agung. “Indonesia is still Australia’s most extraordinary tourist destination because 90 percent of Australians end up in Bali,” said Emil Hardy Ridwan, Country manager Visit Indonesia Tourism Officer (VITO) in Melbourne, on Monday, December 11. He said that the top three destinations preferred by Australians are New Zealand, Bali, and the United States. However, their visits to New Zealand is to visit family members or relatives. “Bali is still their favorite tourist destination,” he said.

In fact, when Ngurah Rai airport was closed during December 26-27 as it was affected by Mount Agung’s volcanic activities, Australian travelers were not too concerned. “Especially young Australians, or independent travelers, they didn’t seem to care much. Although, many of them that have a family have mostly refrained from traveling to Bali,” said Emil. According to Emil, Melbourne based airline Jetstar is still struggling to cope with flight demands to Bali, despite already increasing their flight schedule from seven times a week to 12-times a week. “However, the capacity of Bali’s airport could not accommodate the huge demand,” said Emil. Emil said that Australia is a large market potential that must be maintained. Indonesia is eyeing on attracting 1.8 million tourists from Australia before year’s end. [Tempo December 11, 2017]


Bali’s rumbling volcano slashes peak Christmas tourist numbers

Imran Ameer booked tickets to spend 10 days on the beaches of Lombok, near Bali, with his pregnant wife and 17-month-old daughter. Then Mount Agung in eastern Bali erupted, forcing the 28-year-old from Melbourne to scrap that plan. He’s not alone. With a possibility of the volcano erupting again any time, scores of hotel rooms and flights to Bali have been left empty into the year end, casting doubt on one of the resort-island’s busiest seasons. Five numbers show what’s at stake:

25 – About 25 percent of hotel rooms in Bali are currently occupied, compared with as much as 80 percent in December last year, according to Tjok Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati, chairman of Bali’s association of hotels and restaurants. The island’s tourism industry loses about 250 billion rupiah ($18 million) a day as a result of hotel room and other cancellations, Sukawati said.

70 – Tourism in Bali – named the world’s top travel destination by TripAdvisor Inc. this year – directly and indirectly accounts for about 70 percent of the island’s income, according to the tourism board.

4.5 – Tourism is important not just for Bali but also for Indonesia’s economy. The nation’s tourism revenue – much of which is generated on the resort island – accounted for 4.5 percent of gross domestic product last year, figures from the Tourism Ministry show. The ministry says it’s maintaining its projections for the contribution to rise to 5.5 percent this year and 6.5 percent in 2018.

300 – Indonesian flag carrier PT Garuda Indonesia canceled more than 300 flights because of closures at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport and the Lombok International Airport after the volcanic eruptions. Services to Bali account for 30 percent of the airline’s daily total.

1 million – Garuda lost about $1 million a day when the airports were shut, according to estimates by Shukor Yusof, founder of Endau Analytics, an aviation consulting firm. Shukor estimated that PT Lion Mentari Airlines, Indonesia’s biggest airline, lost about $500,000 a day. Almost a million people had been expected to visit Bali in December and January combined, said Anak Agung Gede Yuniartha Putra, the chief of Bali’s tourism office. Now, expectations are for no less than half the earlier projection.  [Bloomberg December 12, 2017]


Bali Police investigate joget bumbung, dirty dancing incident after videos go viral

Police in Bali have launched an investigation into a series of videos, showing a group of men dressed in motocross gear, who took the flirtatious Balinese dance joget bumbung too far, as they outright humped and harassed the Balinese dancers performing at an event. To make matters worse, it turns out the inappropriate videos were recorded at a fundraiser event for the benefit of Mount Agung evacuees in Les Village, Tejakula, Buleleng on Nov. 19.

Buleleng Police Criminal Investigation Unit Chief Mikael Hutabarat says that police have already questioned eight witnesses related to the “pornographic” incident, including the dancers and event organizers, but the case is actually being managed by province-level police, Polda Bali.

Indonesia has strict anti-porn laws and spreading or exhibiting content deemed as pornography is punishable up to 12 years in prison for adults and it seems politicians in Bali have been pushing law enforcement to classify this as a pornography case. Bali’s Regional Council DPRD even met late November to discuss the matter. “This is dangerous. It’s a threat to Balinese generations, Balinese culture even. This can be said to be a Joget Porno,” said Professor Komang Astika, cultural advisor chair to the Bali DPRD. But police have not yet formally charged anyone. “We are still waiting for the investigation results from Polda Bali,” Hutabarat told Merdeka on Tuesday. “The case is now being handled by Polda Bali because it involves the Cyber Crimes Team,” Hutabarat explained.

Joget bumbung is a controversial dance in Bali because unlike many traditional Balinese dances, it’s done for entertainment purposes, rather than religious ones. Bali’s governor has previously even tried to get the dance banned, while a joget festival was held in Denpasar earlier this year in an attempt to try and sanitize the risqué dance. In joget bumbung, female dancers move seductively and invite audience members to join, but what we saw in the viral videos under investigation was downright uncomfortable and appalling, as men from the crowd forced themselves upon the dancers, latching on and gyrating-all the while as children looked on. [Coconuts Bali December 5, 2017]