Between January and April 2018, more than 100 people across Indonesia died after consuming non-conforming alcohol (oplosan). It contained methanol, which is an industrial alcohol not suitable for human consumption. Many of these cases were concentrated in Greater Bandung, a metropolitan area that comprises of Bandung District (kabupaten), West Bandung District, Bandung City, and Cimahi City, where 57 fatalities were recorded.
A year later, the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies conducted a case study in Greater Bandung area to find out whether government efforts to contain the sale of oplosan have been successful and are able to prevent a similar tragedy from occuring in the future. Interviews were conducted with local government officers, the police, the local government’s law enforcers Satpol PP, and several other stakeholders.
The study found that law enforcement faces serious challenges. Human resources are not enough. Both, the Drug Unit of Bandung District Police and Satpol PP in Cimahi City have only 1 officer for about 150,000 people in their jurisdictions. These officers have several targets and are not just focused on fighting oplosan. Neither do they have a specific budget for that and they lack sufficient technical equipment. A more effective fight against oplosan requires better records and data management, which currently reduces the strategic planning abilities of the authorities. Institutional frictions affect the cooperation between different government agencies and there are incidences of corruption, where oplosan vendors are being tipped off before raids.
It is recommended that Indonesia conducts regulatory reforms that make properly produced alcoholic beverages more affordable and accessible. Surveys among alcohol consumers in Bandung showed that oplosan is mostly being purchased because it is cheaper and more accessible. Current regulations that set the minimum legal drinking age at 21 years old needs to be strictly enforced. Secondly, there needs to be a dedicated local government budget for the fight against oplosan and the enforcement agencies need more officers with specialized training. The agencies should also cooperate with civil society actors with close ties to the local communities to identify and prosecute oplosan vendors. Thirdly, there needs to be more educational and counseling efforts in schools and universities. The youth needs to learn about the dangers of methanol poisoning through oplosan. Currently, only about a quarter of the students in Bandung have heard of campaigns that stressed the dangers of consuming oplosan.