Bogor, W Java (ANTARA) - Indonesia has been fighting on two fronts since last year: the global coronavirus pandemic that has severely affected the nation's public health and economy and the continued threat of domestic and transnational drug rings.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), the pandemic has even made online sales of illicit drugs thrive.

It is the government's primary duty to save Indonesian citizens from both the coronavirus and trade of illicit drugs.

To win the nation's fight against COVID-19, the government has intensified its vaccination program to achieve herd immunity.

At the same time, it has been appealing to the public to keep complying with health protocols and enforced public activity restrictions since July 3, 2021.

In the midst of the government's battle against the coronavirus that has infected more than four million Indonesians and caused 132,491 deaths, drug dealers have continued their trafficking operations.

Drug traffickers consider Indonesia an attractive market owing to its vast population, huge number of drug users, and the high value of illicit drug trade.

Drug trade in Indonesia is reportedly valued at nearly Rp66 trillion while, according to the results of a recent survey, the total number of drug users in the country is recorded at at least 3.4 million.

Related news: BNN destroys 794.62 kg of crystal meth, 19,675 ecstasy pills

The survey the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) and Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) conducted has also shown that 180 out of every 10 thousand Indonesians, aged between 15 and 64, have been pushed into drug addiction.

The BNN-LIPI survey seems to be accurate as drug offenders apprehended by police have often belonged to that age group.

On August 13, 2021, for instance, the North Sumatra police nabbed a 21-year-old drug courier while he was trying to smuggle 13 kg of crystal methamphetamine to Jakarta from East Aceh district.

The suspect, identified as MA, was arrested on a Medan-Banda Aceh road section in Tanjung Pura sub-district, Langkat district, North Sumatra police spokesperson, Senior Commissioner Hadi Wahyudi, informed.

The 21-year-old suspect told investigators that the crystal meth packages belonged to a resident of Aceh province, identified as Putra, Wahyudi said in a statement.

The suspect, who resides in Lueng Puet village, Madat sub-district, East Aceh district, had concealed the drug packages in two separate bags.

MA confessed that Putra had offered to pay him Rp103 million for transporting the package through the Trans-Sumatra highway to Jakarta, Wahyudi said, adding that the police are still investigating the case.

Related news: South Kalimantan BNNP intercepts meth distribution from Malaysia

In South Kalimantan province, local police officers nabbed a 40-year-old resident of Banjarmasin city for drug possession on August 23, 2021.

The suspect, identified by his initials AM, was jobless, according to head of the South Kalimantan Police's Narcotics Unit, Adjunct Senior Commissioner Niko Irawan.

AM was apprehended at his home with 409.31 grams of crystal methamphetamine that he planned to sell to local drug users, he said.

In Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi province, local cops seized 35 kilograms of crystal meth and 30 thousand ecstasy pills from a 28-year-old man at a hotel in Makassar City in the early hours of August 28, 2021.

The man, identified by his initials FTR, was placed in police custody, while the evidence of the crime was examined at the police's forensic laboratory center, according to the South Sulawesi police.

On August 26, 2021, South Sulawesi police arrested two suspected drug couriers at a hotel in Makassar and seized nearly 40 kg of crystal meth and four thousand ecstasy pills.

The suspects were identified by their initials as SYF (37), a resident of South Kalimantan province, and ABJ (24), a resident of Tallo sub-district in Makassar, according to South Sulawesi Police spokesperson Senior Commissioner E. Zulpan.

South Sulawesi police investigators are continuing to probe the two drug cases to find whether they are linked as part of efforts to uncover the suspects' drug ring, he stated.

Related news: Police thwart international syndicate's attempt to traffic 310-kg meth

The threat of drug rings in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is not just Indonesia's problem. Instead, it has become a global issue.

"Drugs cost lives," said Ghada Fathi Waly, executive director of UNDOC.

In her foreword to the UNODC's booklet titled COVID-19 and Drugs: Impact Outlook (2021), she said that almost half a million people died of drug use in 2019 alone.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, "access to drugs has also become simpler than ever with online sales, and major drug markets on the dark web are now worth some $315 million annually", she warned.

The pandemic may have also contributed to the increase in "contactless drug transactions, such as through the mail", Waly said.

This indeed will pose a serious challenge to all nations, particularly Indonesia, which both domestic and transnational drug traffickers have continued to perceive as a big market.

Related news: Dealers logging online to trade drugs amid COVID-19: BNN

Editor: Suharto
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