Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Thousands of university students clashed violently with police at the Gambir railway stations in central Jakarta during a rally against fuel price hikes. Armed with Molotov bombs, wooden sticks and stones, protesters attacked security forces deployed along the main access road to the State Palace and the National Monument of Monas in Central Jakarta. Scores of people were injured.
Subsidised fuel is set to increase on 1 April by 33 per cent to US 65 cents, a decision the government took without parliamentary approval. Experts are concerned that it might push up the price of basic necessities and threaten the lives of millions of people scraping by on a few dollars a day.
The fear of an economic crisis caused by higher fuel prices has caused similar protests in Medan (North Sumatra), Makassar (South Sulawesi) and Gorontalo (North Sulawesi), where demonstrators torched the car of a local government official. More demonstrations against higher fuel prices are expected in the coming days.
From Seoul, where he is attending the nuclear summit, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono accused the opposition of fomenting the clashes in order to discredit the government and take power.
In order to quell the unrest, the government has deployed 20,000 police agents in central Jakarta, the largest number since 1998 when violent anti-Chinese protests left scores of people dead.
Higher gasoline and diesel fuel prices were the cause of that unrest as well, lasting for the whole of May, and eventually forcing then President Suharto to leave power after 32 years of dictatorship.