Indonesian students protest against fuel price hikes

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Hundreds of students rallied in Indonesia’s capital on Thursday to protest sharp increases in fuel prices by the government.

The protesters, from several student organizations, gathered at Jakarta’s National Monument, which commemorates Indonesia’s struggle for independence. “We reject the fuel price hikes,” one of their banners read.

The government increased fuel prices by about 30% on Saturday after reducing some of the costly subsidies that have helped control inflation in the country. The hike — the first in eight years — raised the price of gasoline from 51 cents to 67 cents per liter and diesel fuel from 35 cents to 46 cents.

Protests have been held in several large cities since Monday by students, workers, farmers, fishermen and teachers.

Workers are planning more rallies and considering a national strike unless the increase is rescinded, the president of the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions, Said Iqbal, said Tuesday.

President Joko Widodo said the government was forced to raise fuel prices because the country’s energy subsidies had tripled this year to 502 trillion rupiah ($34 billion) as a result of rising global prices of oil and gas.

The government has subsidized fuel for decades in Indonesia, a vast archipelago nation of more than 270 million people.

Higher fuel prices are a politically sensitive issue that could trigger broader price hikes. In 1998, an increase in fuel prices sparked riots that helped topple longtime dictator Suharto.

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