300 arrested in the second day of labor protests

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The Indonesian police reported that they arrested about 300 protesters during the second day of protests in Indonesia against a legislative reform that critics say cuts labor rights and threatens the environment.

The protests, which began on Monday and are scheduled to continue on Thursday, are celebrated throughout the archipelago and have mostly been held peacefully, although there were some occasional clashes between authorities and protesters.

Between 50 and 100 protesters were arrested in Semarang during a demonstration in front of the headquarters of the Central Java regional legislature where the authorities used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd, who in turn threw stones, bottles and fireworks at the police.

Prior to another demonstration in Palembang, on the island of Sumatra, more than 180 protesters were arrested for their alleged intention to incite chaos and provoke riotsaccording to authorities who seized knives and other sharp weapons and incendiary cocktails.

In Bandung, where demonstrations were already violent on Monday, protesters threw an oil bomb at the police security cordon.

Several unions have called for a strike to show their rejection to a battery of laws approved Monday by the Indonesian Parliament, which reviewed some 70 laws and regulations, aimed according to the government to create jobs and attract investors.

However, Critics of the reform maintain that workers lose labor rights with the new laws, such as the minimum wage or some unemployment benefits, and that the relaxation of environmental regulations will harm the environment.

The National Federation of Trade Unions (KSPN) announced on Tuesday that it had created a special team to study the long battery of laws with the intention of going to the Constitutional Court to challenge articles that violate the Indonesian Magna Carta and workers’ rights.

During a speech prior to the vote, the Minister of Coordination for Economic Affairs, Airlangga Hartarto, argued that the reform was necessary to facilitate foreign investment.

Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world and the sixteenth world economy – taking the Gross Domestic Product as a reference – lags behind other Southeast Asian countries, such as Vietnam or Thailand, in terms of foreign investment.

Indonesia estimates a GDP contraction of between 0.6 and 1.7 percent for this year as a result of the measures imposed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, which represents the first recession suffered by the country since the financial crisis in Southeast Asia of 1997-98.

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