INDONESIA: Stop violence and prosecute the perpetrators who attacked peaceful protesters in Padang West Sumatera

An Open Letter from the Asian Human Rights Commission to the Chief of National Police, Jakarta, Indonesia

General of Police Listyo Sigit Prabowo

Chief of National Police (KAPOLRI)

Jl. Trunojoyo No. 3, Kebayoran Baru, Jakarta Selatan 12110


Tel: +62 21 384 8537, 726 0306

Fax: +62 21 7220 669


Dear General,

INDONESIA: Stop violence and prosecute the perpetrators who attacked peaceful protesters in Padang West Sumatera

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding alleged violence and forcible dispersion of a peaceful protest organized by Air Bangis residents of West Pasaman regency of West Sumatera Province. 

Since Monday 31 July 2023 around 1,500 people from Air Bangis held a peaceful demonstration against the National Strategic Project (PSN) at the office of the Governor of West Sumatra province. The protesters demanded to meet the Governor of West Sumatra for direct dialogue. The protesters were also supported by some legal aid workers and student activists who are concerned about the problems faced by Air Bangis residents

The residents of Air Bangis demanded that the West Sumatra provincial government stop the proposed National Strategic Project (PSN) to the Central Government through the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment in their area. They reasoned that because the PSN required around 30 thousand hectares of land, the palm oil areas they have planted so far will be part of the project. The residents will be prohibited from harvesting their land, so it will affect their family’s economy. Therefore, they demanded that the project be stopped.

However, until Friday 4 August, the Governor of West Sumatra never met the protesters. The governor is said to have actually met rival masses and stayed in touch during the early morning prayers. According to information from the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), on August 4, 2023, the Deputy Regent of West Pasaman together with the Padang Police invited Air Bangis residents to return to Air Bangis, as the Deputy Regent had arranged for buses.

Subsequently, the representative of Air Bangis residents and university student activists held a dialogue with the West Sumatra Provincial Government at the West Sumatra Governor’s Office. At the same time, the protesters from Air Bangis also prayed at the Mosque (Masjid Raya), while waiting for the results of the envoy’s meeting with the West Sumatra Provincial Government.

Police officers from the West Sumatra Regional Police came to residents who were praying. They asked residents to get on the bus that had been prepared. However, residents rejected the request and subsequently there were allegations of violence committed by the Police. In fact, dozens of protesters were also arrested by the police.  According to YLBHI fourteen (14) protesters were illegally arrested by the West Sumatra Police Officers. The police also arrested seven (7) legal aid workers from Padang legal aid and the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI). Moreover, the police also arrested four (4) people who do not take part in the protest and three (3) student activists.

Based upon the abovementioned facts, the AHRC urges:

  1. The Indonesian National Chief of Police must immediately order the West Sumatera Regional Police to release fourteen protesters unconditionally;
  2. The Indonesian National Chief of Police must order the Profession and Security Division (Propam) of the National Police to examine the alleged perpetrators of the police officers of West Sumatera Regional Police who were involved in the arrest and must hold their superiors accountable;
  3. The National Police Chief must involve the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and the Witness and Victims Protection Agency (LPSK) to provide protection to the residents of Air Bangis and independently investigate the allegation of human rights violations.

Thus, we submit this letter. Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Prakash Mohara
Executive Director, Asian Human Rights Commission, 
Hong Kong