#AceNewsReport – Apr.11: Indonesian “thugs for hire” are playing an increasing role in the nation’s presidential election, less than a week out from the world’s biggest single-day poll: Known as “preman” from the Dutch term for “free man,” they can be seen at every political rally dressed in military fatigues, army boots and berets………”[They’re] basically thugs and they have built a reputation as very tough, rough. Sometimes their actions border on criminal,” said Endy Bayuni, Senior Editor of The Jakarta Post.
- Paramilitary groups are providing security and support to presidential candidates ahead of the election
- Many of the ‘preman’ groups began as gangs and some still have links to organised crime
- Some groups have been paid by political parties to intimidate grassroots campaigners into silence
There is a lot of money to be made at election time, according to Andreas Harsono from Human Rights Watch, Indonesia: “They provide security. They open doors when a politician would like to enter another [candidate’s] territory,” Mr Harsono said.
Preman groups also use “intimidation and threats” to capture votes by targeting rival grassroots campaigners who seek to unseat their political masters, according to Mr Harsono: “Visiting their houses, visiting their parent’s houses, visiting their grandfathers. If those things don’t work, then they will use violence,” he said.
There are dozens of preman groups across the Indonesian archipelago, each conducting regular military-style parades and bootcamp training sessions: They also put on displays of strength and bravery for the public, including slashing at their own necks and tongues with machetes and setting off string necklaces made of firecrackers.
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