January 31, 2018

Bitcoin cryptocurrency banned and under increasing scrutiny in Indonesia

The Indonesian authorities are investigating the use of bitcoin within the holiday island of Bali, amid warnings by the central bank in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy over the risks posed by bitcoin according to local report. This has placed the virtual currencies under increasing scrutiny. According to Causa Iman Karana, head of Bank Indonesia’s representative office in Bali: “We found out from some postings on social media that Bali appeared to have become a haven for Bitcoin transactions. The next step is we will ban them as mandated by the law. We ask them not to use it anymore. Along with the Directorate of Special Crime Investigation unit, we will enforce the rule that all transactions in Indonesia must use rupiah.”

Indonesia had previously been reported as having significant local adoption of Bitcoin usage, however, recent reports show that the Indonesian government is trying to restrict the use of the digital currency. The risk of money laundering and criminal   activity has led to the increasing scrutiny. According to Causa, the probe started after the Indonesian Central Bank on Dec. 7, 2017 issued a regulation banning the use of digital currencies in payment systems. Karana said that the Indonesian Central Bank officials and police went undercover at the end of 2017 to investigate scores of businesses in Bali advertising online that they offered bitcoin payment services. He stated that the team found two cafes still using bitcoin as a means of payment, but 44 businesses including car rental outlets, hotels, travel companies and jewelry stores, previously offering the service, had now stopped.

One of the cafes used bitcoin only for transactions of more than 243,000 rupiahs, or about 0.001 bitcoin. A single transaction took about 1 and a half hours to be processed and included a fee of 123,000 rupiahs so this had discouraged its wider use for payments, said Karana. The Central Bank officials refused to name the businesses because he was still waiting for further instructions from Bank Indonesia in Jakarta. “The next step is we will ban them as mandated by the law. We ask them not to use it anymore. Along with the Directorate of Special Crime Investigation unit, we will enforce the rule that all transactions in Indonesia must use rupiah.”

Some locals in Bali said bitcoin was being used mainly by foreigners on the island, which is Indonesia’s tourism hub and has a large expatriate community. The harsh rhetoric against Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies falls more in line with the Chinese and potential South Korean bans than the more lenient Australian position. Bitcoin.co.id, an Indonesian online cryptocurrency exchange, said on its website that bitcoin was trading at 162.70 million rupiah ($12,247) per unit after losing around a quarter of it value this week. [Cryptona January 21, 2018]


Bali journalist associations condemn alleged police mistreatment of reporters at scene of raid on Chinese cyber fraud suspects

Bali journalist associations are speaking out against alleged police mistreatment of two reporters on the island this week that they say violates the freedom of the press in Indonesia. Two journalists were allegedly intimidated and made to delete media from the scene of a police raid on Thursday, against a group of Chinese nationals suspected of participation in a cyber fraud syndicate. The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) of Denpasar along with the Indonesian Television Journalists Association (IJTI) Bali spoke on Friday about the alleged mistreatment of Reuters journalist, Wayan Sukarda and Radar Bali photographer, Miftahuddin Mustofa Halim.

The two were carrying out their journalistic duties in accordance with appropriate procedures, says AJI Denpasar chairman, Hari Puspita. “Regrettably, the authorities deleted videos from a Reuters journalist and deleted photos from a photographer from Radar Bali, Jawa Pos Group. The officers took disappointing actions, forbidding the taking of pictures of Chinese suspects who were herded off the scene of the crime. “That’s public space and the journalists were working under protection of the Press Law. We condemn this behavior that hurt their journalistic duties,” IJTI Chairman Anak Agung Gede Kayika said on Friday, as quoted by Merdeka. “We ask that the police respect journalistic work and understand the Press Law. AJI and IJTI also appeal to journalists to carry out their duties professionally, obey the beacons of the Press Law and the Journalistic Code of Ethics,” he added.

It was reported that at least 48 Chinese nationals had been arrested in a series of police raids against cyber fraud syndicates on Thursday. Prior to the raids, Bali Police spokesperson Comr. Ismi Rahayu had communicated to reporters that plans were underway to conduct raids in four locations where some 100 Chinese nationals were allegedly engaging in illegal activities. Based on this information, Halim went to take photos at one of the raid locations disclosed to the press in Denpasar on Jl. Tukad Badung. Another journalist from Kompas, Cokorda Yudhisthira, also came to the same location. But with no police in sight, Halim and Yudhisthira moved to “location four” in Kutuh Village, South Kuta.

When they got to “location four”, the place was swarming with police, who were securing a house filled with Chinese nationals. Upon arrival at the scene, Halim was asked where he came from, so he presented his press ID. As he started taking photos of the raid with the camera on his phone, two armed police officers approached him, demanding that he delete any photos. Without giving him any time, the officers seized the phone and deleted the photos themselves, Merdeka’s report of the incident alleges. Meanwhile, Sukarda had come to the scene separately to film footage for Reuters, but as soon as police saw him, his video recordings were also deleted by police. The blocking of coverage violates Article 18 paragraph 1 of Law no. 40 of 1999 regarding the press, which is punishable by a maximum sentence of two years or a maximum fine of IDR500 million (US$37,000), according to IJTI. [Coconuts Bali January 12, 2018]


Komodo islands to limit number of visitors to prevent damage

Travelers planning to come to Komodo National Park in West Flores, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), should now keep an eye on possible government measures aiming to regulate visitor flows to one of the world’s top tourist destinations. The national park is one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. The Komodo National Park Authority said on Saturday (20/1) it would issue a policy to put a limit on the number of tourists           visiting Komodo this year, which is home to the world’s largest living lizards. “We shall set a limit to each tourism destination (in Komodo), on land and in diving locations,” Komodo National Park (TNK) head   Sudiyono told Antara in the NTT provincial capital of Kupang.

The Komodo National Park comprises about 30 islands including Komodo and Rinca islands where the Varanus komodoensis or komodo dragons are found. The TNK also has several attractive diving sites such as Batu Samsia, Chrystal Rock and Castle Rock. Sudiyono said the rapidly rising number of domestic and foreign visitors flocking to the Komodo National Park could threaten its habitat. Meanwhile, other TNK officials had previously warned that too many visitors coming to the area could cause its lizards to have stress and that shortage of prey could make visitors their target. In addition, the officials said, uncontrollable numbers people visiting Komodo would make it even more difficult for workers to keep the area clean.

On this, Sudiyono said that raising ticket prices to enter TNK would likely be one measure to control the arrivals of visitors. Almost 120,000 domestic and foreign tourists visited the area in 2017, about 11 percent higher than in the previous year, according to park data. The Indonesian government had succeeded to develop Komodo into one of the country’s most attractive tourist destinations. It had developed Labuan Bajo Airport on mainland Flores into a world-class facility. In addition, Labuan Bajo has now transformed into a more vibrant town.

Beside Komodo, other most popular tourist sites in Indonesia include Bali, Lombok Island, Borobudur Temple (Central Java), Bunaken Beach (North Sulawesi), Yogyakarta, Raja Ampat (Papua), Bromo Volcano (East Java), Lake Toba (North Sumatra), Wakatobi (Southeast Sulawesi), and Toraja (South Sulawesi). [Global Indonesian Voices January 21, 2018]


Underpass update: Expect delays on northbound travel between Jimbaran and airport during January-February 2018

Work on the new underpass at the entrance to Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport shifted its focus on Saturday, January 20, 2018, to the southern side of the traffic circle bringing traffic delays and temporary changes to traffic flows to and from the airport. Balipost.com reports that traffic from the Jimbaran area heading north to the Airport should expect some delays due to a narrowing of the roadway to permit construction to continue. Police are recommending that motorists traveling from Jimbaran to the north should seek alternative routes. Tourist busses are being asked to travel via the toll way exiting at the Airport to avoid creating potential bottlenecks.

Those in charge of the underpass project predict that traffic traveling north from Jimbaran to the airport will experience delays for one month until work on that section of the project is completed. Engineers warn that once work moves from one section of construction to another section, new challenges and delays will occur in other areas of the roadway in a race to have the underpass finished before October 2018 in time for the World Bank – International Monetary Fund Conference in Bali.

Accordingly, travellers, and travel operators are warned to keep abreast of developments and allow more time when traveling to and from the Airport. As of January 18, 2018, construction supervisors say the underpass at the Airport’s entrance has reached 25.8% of its completion.

[balidiscovery.com January 21, 2018]


Additional steps underway to ensure compliance with new traffic and parking rules in Ubud

The Secretary of Transportation for the Regency of Gianyar in Bali, I Made Rai Ridartha, admitted to Bali Express on Monday, January 15, 2018, that vehicles are still violating Ubud’s   new parking regulations with certain members of the local community demonstrating their open defiance of efforts to control on street parking in order to end Ubud’s severe traffic congestion.

A month after new parking rules were introduced, many vehicles and motorbikes are still parking in prohibited areas with officials claiming they are unable to implement a strict enforcement of the new rules. When challenged by police and transportation authorities, violators plead ignorance of the rules or an urgent need to temporarily park in a forbidden zone. The boldest among the scofflaws simply tell police they don’t agree with the new parking regulations.

In order achieve the end result of reducing traffic congestion, community leaders in Ubud, police and traffic wardens recently convened a meeting with members of the community working and living on roads where parking is now prohibited to seek compliance with the law. At the same time, police have pledged to place additional personnel on Jalan Monkey Forest, Jalan Dewi Sita and Jalan Suweta. Police are also pledging that if persuasive moves to seek compliance with the new parking rules do not work, firmer steps may include tickets, towing, and the locking of vehicle tires.

Meanwhile tourism leaders warn that continued failure to handle issues connected to traffic congestion and cleanliness will result in Ubud’s disappearance as a favourite global tourism destination. Authorities are quick to point out that some           improvements in traffic flow have been achieved since the trial introduction of new traffic and parking regulations in December 2017, but work remains to be done to eliminate the remaining vehicles in non-compliance with the law. [balidiscovery.com January 21, 2018]


Indonesia looks to China to help boost slumping   tourism in wake of Bali volcano eruptions: official

Indonesia is doing its utmost to recover the falling numbers of Chinese tourists visiting Bali since the multiple eruptions last November of Mount Agung, a volcano on the popular island.Tourist companies were relying on rising numbers of visitors to Indonesia to help hit overall foreign visitor targets of 17 million and 20 million set for this year and next, respectively, according to industry statistics. But tourist bureaus have been struggling to convince tourists about their safety and security during their time spent in Bali, owing to continued seismic activity in the region. The picturesque resort island, which was selected as the world’s best tourist destination by TripAdvisor in 2017, has contributed around 40 percent to the nation’s overall foreign tourist arrivals for years, followed by the capital city of Jakarta at 30 percent and Indonesia’s western region that accounts for 20 percent.

The brief closure of Bali airport following the multiple eruptions in late November last year and the subsequent high alert status over possible further eruptions have hammered Bali’s tourism industry. The volcanic events prompted governments of major tourist supplying countries to Indonesia to issue travel warning for their nationals traveling to Bali.

In response, Indonesia’s tourism ministry took immediate steps to try and recover international confidence in the country and tried to redress Bali’s significant slump in visitors, as the numbers have been indispensable to the government’s tourism targets. “Visitors from China are extremely important for the tourism industry in Bali. We want to see them coming back to Bali again as soon as possible,” Vincensius Jemadu, Deputy Assistant for Asia Pacific Market Development at Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism, told Xinhua in an inclusive interview in Bali recently.

According to data released by Indonesia’s Central Agency on Statistics, Bali received 1.43 million Chinese tourists in the first 11 months of 2017, which accounted for around 25 percent of the total number of foreign tourists visiting Bali throughout   the period. The government here has yet to announce the official data on the number of foreign tourist arrivals in Bali for December 2017. According to Jemadu, the multiple eruptions dealt a massive blow to the numbers of foreign tourist arrivals in Bali.

Intensive promotions and tour package sales programs have since been formulated by the ministry with part of the programs to be held in several Chinese cities this month. The programs are a continuation of efforts implemented last year in 20 Chinese cities whose residents might be tempted to visit   Indonesia. The current programs are mainly focused on recovering the confidence of Chinese tourists in the safety aspects of Bali related to the volcanic events and trying to boost package sales. Jemadu said that Indonesia relies heavily on China as the tourism industry is a mainstay of the nation’s overall economy. [Chinanews January 21, 2018]