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THE travel information that tour operators issue may not always be accurate or even particularly useful. But in the case of Indonesia, there is at least one area where the advice given out should be taken very seriously. As one online travel advisory puts it: “While Jakarta may be an interesting and exciting place to visit, please do not be too adventurous with (drinking) water.”

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MANY critics of the Indonesian education system point to unqualified teachers and rampant cheating in national examinations. Less widely acknowledged, however, is the fact that many students do not even feel safe in their own classrooms.

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BY ALL accounts, 15-year-old Alawy Yusianto Putra was a shy and reserved schoolboy who hated brawls and had a passion for music. But he was also a student at Jakarta’s SMAN 6 school in the Bulungan area, and that was enough for his murderers.

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“I HAVEN’T tried it yet because we only finished installing it yesterday and (the cement) is still wet,” 65-year-old Jumali told the Jakarta Globe earlier this year. Mr Jumali, a farmer who lives in the village of Jombe in South Sulawesi, was talking about the latest addition to his home – a toilet.

Key Political Risks

The inability of the government led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to bridge the deep divisions between her populist government and its royalist opponents in the military and bureaucracy remains a major concern.

Prime Minister Yingluck has selected a competent economic team, but it is difficult for these technocrats to deliver on the new government's campaign promises without triggering inflation or hurting business. 

The government has also been unable to resolve the ongoing insurgency involving ethnic Malay Muslim rebels in the south.



  1. Attempts by the government to amend the constitution. The proposed rewrite is aimed removing legal measures initiated by the royalist generals who overthrew former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the current prime minister's elder brother, in 2006.
  2. Ballooning government debt as officials seek to finance government programmes aimed at subsidising rice prices in order to retain the support of farmers.
  3. The relationship between Prime Minister Yingluck and senior generals. Coups have been a common means of regime change in Thai history, and any attempt by the government to purge royalist elements in the top brass could trigger yet another. Thailand

About Me

My name is Dr Bruce Gale and I am a senior writer with the Singapore Straits Times. I studied at  LaTrobe University (BA Hons) in Melbourne and later at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at Monash University (MA). My PhD thesis, which focussed on Malaysian political economy, was completed at the Malaysian National University (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) in 1987.

From 1988 to 2003 I was Singapore Regional Manager for the Hong Kong based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC). 

I have written several books and articles on Southeast Asian affairs, including Political Risk and International Business: Case Studies in Southeast Asia (Pelanduk Publications, 2007). Books on language include Mastering Indonesian: a guide to reading Indonesian language newspapers (Pelanduk Publications, 2008)

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