Thousands of students, truck drivers and laborers rallied across Indonesia on Thursday against impending fuel price hikes, some blocking roads with burning tires and throwing stones outside a house belonging to the vice president.
In one incident, police fired warning shots and beat protesters with batons after a rowdy crowd tried to storm a gas station, witnesses said. The government's decision to cut fuel subsidies that have helped protect Indonesia's poorest from spiraling global prices could result in a 60 percent rise in the price of gasoline, diesel fuel and kerosene when it takes effect Saturday, ministers say. Though the move will help ease pressure on the cash-strapped government's budget, it is also expected to push up the price of everything from rice to bus fares to cigarettes in the sprawling country of 220 million people, half of whom live on less than US$2 a day.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, elected last year on promises to fight poverty and revive Southeast Asia's largest economy, has quickly become one of Indonesia's most popular leaders. But his decision to raise fuel prices on the heels of a 29 percent hike in March is shaping into his first major political test, informs the AP. I.L.