MAKASSAR: A protester died on Thursday (Nov 27) as a stone-throwing crowd clashed with police in central Indonesia during a demonstration against a dramatic increase in fuel prices, police said.
The 27-year-old man was found in the street after police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse about 200 demonstrators trying to force their way into the local governor’s office in Makassar, on Sulawesi island.
The city has been the site of small demonstrations since last week’s decision by new President Joko Widodo to increase the price of subsidised petrol and diesel by over 30 per cent.
Economists have welcomed the move to reduce subsidies that gobble up a huge chunk of the budget in Southeast Asia’s top economy, but it risks hitting the poor hardest as higher transportation costs will push up the price of food.
Local police spokesman Endi Sutendi told AFP the crowd of students and local residents began throwing rocks at police, who responded by hurling more rocks back. “The crowd then broke the gate of the governor’s office and the police pushed them back,” he said.
After the protesters were forced back, a man was found lying in the road with wounds to the back of his head, Sutendi said. The police said authorities were investigating the cause of death, but a preliminary report suggested the man fell and hit his head while trying to leave the demonstration.
The situation remained tense late on Thursday, with protesters still on the streets and several motorbikes set on fire, an AFP reporter said.
Makassar has seen the worst protests over the increase in fuel prices. Some demonstrations have been staged in other cities across the archipelago, but most have remained peaceful and much smaller than the mass protests that accompanied previous increases in the fuel price.