Bootleg alcohol is the root of a deadly epidemic in Indonesia according to local authorities. national police said that in April alone 82 people are dead and nearly 100 more are in critical condition after drinking black market liquor.
Police spokesperson Setyo Wasisto provided a grim count of the victims. 51 people dead in greater West Java, including Bandung, Sukabumi and Cileunyi, over the last week. 31 dead in Jakarta, the capital. More than 90 people were hospitalized were hospitalized in the city of Cicalengka. All of the incidents were attributed to the effects of bad bootleg alcohol.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, has a complicated relationship with alcohol. Spirits are not illegal, but they are strongly discouraged by the religious right. Still, drinking is common. Consequently, alcohol is taxed at high rates. Likewise, several laws are intended to discourage drinking; for example, 2015 legislation banned the sale of booze from tens of thousands of convenience stores.
The regulations only served to inject new life into the black market for alcohol. Alcoholic drinks are commonly sold on the side of the road in plastic bags. The most common variety of hooch is called, “oplosan.”
Rofi Uddaroja at the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies explained, “oplosan, a Javanese term for alcohol, which is made by mixing ingredients that have not gone through the distillation process and usually contains non-food ingredients such as methyl alcohol and non-food ethyl alcohol.”
It is also common for small, unlicensed distillery operations to leave methanol in the finished products. The compound is extremely toxic and professional distillers are meticulous in their efforts to remove it from their spirits.
The combined factors result in numerous deaths from bootleg alcohol annually. However, the current epidemic is particularly severe. Authorities said that they suspect the toxic hooch is all from the same batch.
West Java police reported that seven people have been arrested in connection with the deadly alcohol and an eighth remains at large. In addition, national police were seen raiding several small stores and confiscating large barrels believed to contain bootleg alcohol.
Photo by F1jmm [CC3.0]