How a wave of disinformation is endangering Rohingya refugees in Indonesia

Dozens of photos and videos that have been either “doctored” or taken out of context so as to negatively portray Rohingya refugees have been circulating on Indonesian social media. This wave of disinformation has become so intense that the United Nations is worried about the refugees’ safety – even in Aceh province, which has, historically, been considered very welcoming. Our Observer, an Indonesian journalist who specialises in fact-checking for a publication called Mafindo, has been looking at the rise in online hate speech and fake news targeting the Rohingya.

Hundreds of protesters forced a group of Rohingya refugees to leave their temporary shelter in a parking lot in Banda Aceh, the capital of the Indonesian province of Aceh, on December 27, 2023. Videos show the protesters chanting slogans like “get them out” and threatening the frightened refugees, among them women and children. 

This footage, which was widely circulated both on social media and by media outlets, has shocked the Rohingya community and its advocates. Each year, many Rohingya arrive in makeshift boats on the beaches of this province in the far northern part of Indonesia. Up until now, they were welcomed by locals. 

The Rohingya, a Muslim minority from Myanmar, have long faced persecution in their country, but more than 700,000 of them fled when the Myanmar military began a violent campaign of repression in August 2017. Many of them now live as refugees in Bangladesh, often in dire circumstances. Many Rohingya have been attempting to flee the terrible situations in both Myanmar and Bangladesh by boat. 

Many of these boats are bound for Malaysia. However, few reach their target destination, whether due to poor weather conditions, overcrowding or badly equipped boats.  

Many of the boats end up coming ashore in the Indonesian region of Aceh. More than 1,600 landed there in 2023, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

However, in recent months, it seems like the Rohingyas are no longer welcome in Aceh. A group of locals rejected a boat filled with more than 250 refugees back in November 2023, forcing them back to sea and, since then, there have been other cases of the same kind of response. There have also been other reports of locals physically and verbally threatening refugees. Locals have also accused workers with the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) of being part of a human trafficking network. 

The spike in anti-Rohinyga actions is occurring alongside a rise in online hate speech and disinformation about Rohingya on social media in Indonesia. 

The number of photos and videos taken out of context to feed into a negative narrative about Rohingya refugees has exploded on Instagram and TikTok in recent months.

For example, a video that claims to show Rohingya refugees burning down a warehouse has gone viral on TikTok. We did a reverse image search on the footage (click here to find out how) to figure out when this footage first appeared online. Turns out, it actually shows a fire that took place back in 2020 in Cimahi, a town in the Indonesian province of West Java.

This is a screengrab of a video posted on TikTok. The caption, in Indonesian, says, “Rohingyas burned down this warehouse in Aceh because they weren’t given food.” © FRANCE 24 Observers

Another video, which has garnered more than 11 million views on TikTok since December, shows an enormous boat filled with passengers. The caption on the video reads: “Rohingyas are once again being transported from Bangladesh to Indonesia.” In reality, the footage shows a boat that carries out internal voyages within Bangladesh. You can see the name of the boat in the footage and, from there, we were able to find out its itinerary. It turns out that some of the footage of this boat was taken from a Bangladeshi YouTube channel.

This is a screengrab of a video published on TikTok that claims to show a boat filled with Rohingya refugees who have left Bangladesh bound for Indonesia.
This is a screengrab of a video published on TikTok that claims to show a boat filled with Rohingya refugees who have left Bangladesh bound for Indonesia. © FRANCE 24 Observers

‘Fake information linked to hate speech targets people’s emotions’ 

The Indonesian platform Mafindo investigated these two videos and uncovered their origins. Aribowo Sasmito, a journalist with Mafindo, says that there has been a sharp rise in fake information about the Rohingyas online in recent months :

Everything began with a series of TikTok videos that were made to look like they were from the UNHCR. It became so intense that the UNHCR had to speak out to say that these weren’t their videos.

In this thread posted on X, the United Nations in Indonesia warned social media users about fake information about the Rohingya published by accounts pretending to be the UNHCR. These fake accounts claimed, for example, that the UNHCR in Bangladesh gave special passes to Rohingya.


There are also more and more videos on Instagram and TikTok that paint the Rohingyas as ungrateful. 

The problem with these videos is that people allow themselves to be influenced without verifying them, especially anything that reaffirms the narrative that the Rohingya are bad.


There are common themes that emerge in these fake news items. One portrays Rohingyas as ungrateful for the help offered by Indonesians. Another common narrative is that they are all part of a human trafficking network. Another is that they are “fake” Muslims.


Because most Indonesians are very religious, faith is one of the main themes exploited by disinformation and hate speech. 

It is very difficult to dismantle fake information based on hate speech, because it targets people’s emotions. The easiest way to spread disinformation in a religious and family-orientated society like Indonesia is to integrate religion and racism into it.


Some posts compare the Rohingya refugees arriving in Indonesia with the situation in Israel and Gaza – but, in these posts, the Rohingya are portrayed as spoiling the land belonging to Indonesians. 

A fake UNHCR account, for example, seemed to claim that it was going to give the Rohingya an “empty island”. Another fake news item that is supposed to show boats filled with Rohingya refugees is captioned: “The situation in Israel is happening again here.” In actuality, however, the boats shown are Chinese fishing boats.

This is a screengrab of a video posted on TikTok that claims to show boats filled with Rohingya heading towards Indonesia. “Protect our seas from illegal Rohingya refugees,” reads the text.
This is a screengrab of a video posted on TikTok that claims to show boats filled with Rohingya heading towards Indonesia. “Protect our seas from illegal Rohingya refugees,” reads the text. © FRANCE 24 Observers

Some local NGOs are actually starting to believe this negative discourse about the Rohingya. Some of their members believe the narrative that the refugees are ungrateful and badly behaved.  

One reason for the increasingly negative view of the Rohingya in Aceh is an incident that took place in 2021 – three fishermen were imprisoned after they helped 99 Rohingya refugees trapped on a sinking boat. They were sentenced to five years in prison on human trafficking charges. There remains a sense of in injustice in Aceh and sometimes the Rohingya are blamed for this. 

In this impoverished region, the image of the refugees being “ungrateful” has spread quickly, explains journalist Sasmito :


The few isolated cases where a Rohingya refugee has been badly behaved end up being applied to the whole population. When people already have an aversion to another group, then they can be easily incited to share false information that reaffirms their beliefs.

There are also external factions that feed into this narrative, like when Indonesian president Joko Widodo said [in December 2023] that the number of Rohingya in the country had increased because of human trafficking.


In early January, a video clip that was shared more than 200,000 times made it look like the Indonesian president wanted to deport the Rohingya. But in the full speech, which was obtained by fact-checking outlet AFP factuel, Widodo doesn’t talk about deportation. He says that he wants to end human trafficking and that he is committed to providing temporary aid to the Rohingya “while prioritizing the interests of the local community”. 

‘The Rohingya have become scapegoats’  

The anti-Rohingya sentiment is also growing amid a backdrop of heightened nationalism and patriotism, with elections having been held on February 14. Chris Lewa, the president of the Arakan Project, an association dedicated to Rohingya rights, has kept a close eye on the evolution of this anti-Rohingya discourse online: 


When the first boat was prevented from landing [in November], the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made a statement underscoring that Indonesia didn’t sign the 1951 Refugee Convention, which meant that they were under no international obligation to receive the Rohingya. His words have often been cited in anti-Rohingya discourse. 

However, the country does need to respect national laws [Editor’s note: which require the country to accept refugees, including a presidential decree from 2016].

Against the backdrop of presidential elections, the Rohingya have become scapegoats. 

[Faced with the rising tensions] the government said that they want to work with the UNHCR and the IOM but, in this climate, it hasn’t changed anything. Locals keep displacing the Rohingya and some of the Indonesian members of my association don’t want to go into the camps anymore. Some have even faced physical threat. It isn’t like that everywhere though, thankfully, and some villagers are still showing their support to the Rohingya refugees. 


Some journalists and analysts are speaking about what looks like a coordinated “campaign” of disinformation, but have, so far, been unable to determine who might be behind this. 

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Indonesia: Rare video of indigenous tribe facing down bulldozer shows ‘uncontacted peoples do exist’

On the Indonesian island of Halmahera, two members of an “uncontacted” indigenous tribe were filmed facing down a logging company’s bulldozer. The rare encounter caught on camera testifies to the growing threat that industrial activities – particularly nickel mining managed in part by a French company – pose to indigenous tribes. For members of an indigenous rights NGO, the video serves as a reminder to the government and companies that uncontacted populations exist.

Issued on:

5 min

On October 26, an employee of a forest company on the island of Halmahera, Indonesia shared an incredibly rare series of videos on Facebook showing an encounter with members of an indigenous tribe. The encounter, filmed from a bulldozer, is only the third known record since 2016 that documents Indonesia’s “uncontacted” indigenous population.

“Uncontacted” peoples are indigenous communities with little to no sustained contact with their neighbours or the outside world.

From across a stream, we see two men approaching, shouting and waving their arms. They appear to be armed with bows and machetes. In one of the videos, one of the men steps into the stream and briefly appears to aim at the bulldozer. When the vehicle’s engine roars violently – presumably to scare him off – he lowers his weapon and retreats.

One of four videos posted on Facebook by an employee of the Indonesian logging company Wana Kencana Sejati on October 26.

The videos went viral on Indonesian social networks, especially after being shared by the Indonesian indigenous rights NGO Jatam and the British NGO Survival International. While the person who posted the videos characterised the incident as “an attack”, others saw it as a gesture of legitimate resistance by tribesmen protecting their land.  

The videos were picked up by the Indonesian indigenous rights group Jatam.

The two men in the videos are members of the Hongana Manyawa tribe, one of the last nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes in Indonesia. There are around 3,000 of them, most of whom are in contact with the outside world, but between 300 to 500 choose to remain uncontacted.

‘It’s very traumatic for indigenous people who have no idea what’s happening’

Callum Russell, who works for Survival International on the case of the Hongana Manyawa in Halmahera, found the images a cause for concern.

What the worker was saying was like “We were attacked by a violent tribe who kills people and attacks people”, a message full of stereotypes. And that they survived thanks to their engines and machinery, something like that.

They were not attacked at all actually. What happened is that the logging companies have bulldozers in their forest, so the Hongana Manyawa are basically having their forest attacked. You can see them in the video shouting and throwing weapons at them. At one point, one of the men is crossing the river and aiming an arrow directly at the worker and at this moment the bulldozer revved and they went back to the forest.

It’s very traumatic for indigenous people, who have no idea what’s happening. We speak to the relatives of the Hongana Manyawa who have contact and they were very concerned about their uncontacted relatives in the forest. They don’t know what [the bulldozers] are and they just see something destroying everything they need to survive.

Although the incident on video involved a logging company, Survival International is even more concerned about the impact of nickel mining in Halmahera on uncontacted tribes.

A few kilometres away, the huge Weda Bay Nickel (WBN) mining concession is managed by the Chinese company Tsingshan (its majority shareholder) and the French company Eramet (37.8 percent shareholder). The French government holds a 25.7 percent stake in Eramet via a public investment bank.

This huge nickel deposit is mainly used to manufacture electric car batteries for international companies. But the lucrative project is widely criticised by NGOs that defend indigenous rights, who say that huge swathes of the forest where the Hongana Manyawa live have already been destroyed or polluted.

‘The Hongana Manyawa never gave their consent for this’

Satellite images provided by Survival International show the mining concession encroaching on Halmahera’s forests. 

Most of the nickel mined in Halmahera is used for car batteries. The irony is that the most ecological people in the world, the Hongana Manyawa, are suffering so that people can live a supposedly sustainable lifestyle. 

The Hongana Manyawa never gave their consent for this, especially not the uncontacted ones because they can’t. They could be wiped out. They are extremely vulnerable because they have no immunity to outside diseases like the flu or measles. 

A contacted Hongana Manyawa told me a few months ago: “I will never give the company permission to use our land. Weda Bay Nickel has tried several times and the police have also tried to obtain my consent and that of others. For a new project, the company is doing everything it can to get permission, but we will never give it to them.”

Survival Internation accuses Eramet and the Weda Bay Nickel company of continuously mining Hongana Manyawa territories since 2013, dispute knowing that uncontacted people live in their concession.

Eramet told the FRANCE 24 Observers team that Weda Bay Nickel’s activities on the island are carried out with respect and dialogue with indigenous populations, with the help of independent studies.

The company claims that there are only nine members of the Hongana Manyawa tribe on their concession, and that they regularly interact with workers on the site. Eramet told us that no uncontacted people are living on their concession.

While our team was able to consult documents indicating that the WBN concession overlaps with Hongana Manyawa territory, it is not possible to estimate the number of uncontacted people living within this area.

‘This kind of footage is important to show that uncontacted peoples do exist’

A spokesperson from Eramet also questioned the term “uncontacted people”, arguing that this term has no significance in international law.

According to Callum Russel, this is one of the major difficulties in legally protecting the Hongana Manyawa, who have no defined legal status. In Indonesia, they are only covered by a law protecting old-growth forest

Nevertheless, according to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the consent of the individuals concerned is required for all developments on indigenous territories. 

Survival International respects the desire of uncontacted tribes to stay isolated. That’s why videos like these that emerge are so important to raise awareness of their situation, Russell said.

We have only three of these videos. As a matter of principle, since we don’t try to contact people who don’t want to be contacted, we rely on documents from people working for mining companies. 

This kind of footage is important to show that uncontacted peoples do exist, despite what the companies or the government may say. 

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How palm oil companies are illegally burning forests to clear land in Indonesia

Indonesian palm oil companies have been playing a dangerous game: burning forests to clear land that has already been dried out by their activities – just to cut production costs. This practice is illegal because it is a major cause of wildfires that have destroyed ecosystems and generated massive atmospheric pollution in Indonesia and nearby countries over the past few years. A group of Indonesian environmental NGOs have been investigating how palm oil companies are continuing to harm the environment with impunity. 

A number of wildfires tore through Indonesia in October 2023 – something that has become a common occurrence in recent years. On the island of Sumatra, the blazes led to the closure of several schools. For NGOs operating in Indonesia, including Greenpeace and the local organisation Pantau Gambut, the culprit is clear: palm oil companies are to blame for these fires. 

The NGOs accuse these companies of using these fires to clear the land – a cheaper and faster option than bulldozers. Then, the companies plant palm trees in the cleared land. While using fire to clear land is a traditional practice, it has been illegal in Indonesia since 2009.  

Environmental NGOs have seen a real increase in fires in Indonesia’s tropical peatlands, which are under threat by the palm oil industry.

‘It’s the cheapest method’

More than 14,000 fires were recorded in August, four times the number in July, according to Pantau Gambut, an Indonesian NGO that monitors fires in the peatlands.  

This increase in fires can be directly linked to the palm oil companies for two reasons, says Abil Salsabila, a member of Pantau Gambut:

Some of these palm oil companies start fires so they can clear the land and start a plantation there, because it is the cheapest method. 

It’s important to add that these companies drain the peatlands to water their plantations. That dries out the peatlands and makes them more vulnerable to fires overall.  Their soil is made up of organic matter that has been decomposing for thousands of years and the oxidation process from this decomposition makes them even more flammable.

Oxidation generates carbon dioxide (CO2). In case of a fire, this build-up of CO2 adds to the CO2 created by the fire. Therefore, dried-out peatlands represent between 5 and 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Satellites images and investigation on the ground 

The explosive cocktail of dried-out peatlands and clearing with fire is behind one of the biggest ecological catastrophes in southeast Asia.

In 2015, massive fires engulfed Indonesian peatlands for several weeks and generated enormous atmospheric pollution, leading to up to 100,000 premature deaths in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. 

Earlier this year, Malaysia said that the fires in neighbouring Indonesia were responsible for a massive decrease in air quality.

Even after the massive fires in 2015, palm oil companies are still burning land, as shown by the meticulous documentation carried out by environmental NGOs like Greenpeace Indonesia and Pantau Gambut.

Pantau Gambut monitors fires in the palm oil concessions using several tools – first, an online map that documents fires in Indonesia, satellite image analysis and on-the-ground investigation. 

The map, made by the Indonesian firm BRIN, shows where the fires have started. Out of 126,146 fires that began between July 1 and September 3, 2023, 27.5% were within palm oil concessions, according to Greenpeace Indonesia. Concessions are land granted by the government to plant oil companies to establish plantations.

This is a screengrab of a map made by the Indonesian firm BRIN, which indicates the fire hotspots in Indonesia over the past 24 hours. (Here, you can see the map from October 20, 2023). Researchers with two NGOs, Greenpeace and Pantau Gambut, have said that this data is limited because it comes from the Indonesian government. © BRIN

Pantau Gambut identified 675 fires that began in a palm oil concession belonging to PT Mekar Karya Kahuripan, in the province of West Kalimantan (the island of Borneo). The company has already been convicted of clearing land by burning it.   

A number of fires began in another palm oil concession owned by PT Waringin Agro Jaya (WAJ) in the province of South Sumatra. This company has also been found guilty of using fire to clear land in the past. In 2019, the Indonesian Supreme Court ruled that the WAJ was one of the parties responsible for the 2015 fires. 

Pantau Gambut used satellite imagery in order to identify which fires began with land clearing. For example, the image below shows part of the same concession, belonging to PT Mekar Karya Kahuripan, in 2019 and again in 2023.

This fire took place in the province of West Kalimantan (Borneo) in a protected area.

Certain zones had been cleared in 2019 (above right) but there is no trace of fire. 

In August 2023, a large swathe of land in the concession burned. You can see smoke, typical of these wildfires, above and around the region.

Alongside the burned zone, there is also a rectangle that indicates agricultural land ready to harvest.

The researchers at Pantau Gambut also carry out on-the-ground investigations to see what happened to the areas shown to have been burned in the satellite images.

The photo at the right shows plantations in 2021 on peatlands that were burned in 2015 (the zone that has been burned is marked in red).
The photo at the right shows plantations in 2021 on peatlands that were burned in 2015 (the zone that has been burned is marked in red). © Pantau Gambut

The images above show that plantations have been set up on land burned during the fires in 2015. That’s not what was supposed to happen to these lands – the palm oil companies were supposed to restore them to their natural state, at the request of the government.

‘The fact that there are still fires show that the concession owners haven’t taken any measures’

The courts have found the palm oil companies guilty of contributing to the fires in other ways as well.

Under Indonesian law, palm oil companies are responsible for any fires that start on their land or within one kilometre of their land. In July 2023, the Indonesian Supreme Court fined a palm oil company 57 million euros for burning 2,560 hectares of land in its concession between 2018 and 2019. 

Moreover, after the terrible fires in 2015, Indonesia also brought in several laws and policies to help save the peatlands and avoid fires in the concessions. Since 2017, palm oil companies found to have damaged peat lands within their concessions have to enact strategies to rehydrate the land. 

However, NGOs on the ground say that while the laws exist, they aren’t being respected. Salsabila explained: 

In reality, the law isn’t being enforced. The Ministry of the Environment will prosecute companies that break this law and some of them have been fined millions of euros but, in the end, the fines are often reduced and there is no transparency to know if the companies that were fined have paid up or not. 

For example, our researchers showed that in August and September 2023, a number of fires began in a concession that had been found responsible for fires between 2015 and 2019. 

There were also fires that began this year in a concession that belongs to PT Waringin Agro Jaya (WAJ), which was found responsible for the 2015 fires and fined 28 million euros.

The fact that there are still fires show that they haven’t taken any measures – on the contrary. 

And even if there are a bunch of fires that start in the concessions this month and it is government data that shows this, nothing is happening.

Some international corporations have stopped business with palm oil companies, because of their flagrant abuse of the environment as well as human rights. Kellogg’s became the 10th company in the world to end commercial ties with Astra Agro Lestari, the second biggest producer of palm oil in Indonesia.

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Indonesia is fast becoming a formidable presence on the global stage

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

Amidst a global landscape riddled with rivalries, Indonesia continues to lead by example, advocating for nations to collaborate on pressing global issues — serving as a geopolitical and economic bridge, Arsjad Rasjid writes.


In the wake of the 2023 ASEAN Business Advisory Council (BAC) Summit’s conclusion, Indonesia’s emergence as a global leader is taking centre stage. European policymakers should take note.

Assuming the pivotal roles of ASEAN’s Chair this year and the G20 Presidency in 2022, Indonesia has rightfully earned global recognition for its potential to not only drive regional development but also set a compelling global example. 

With Southeast Asia’s largest economy and the world’s third-largest democracy, Indonesia is rapidly asserting itself as a formidable presence on the global stage. 

According to some forecasts, Indonesia could even overtake Russia by 2026, becoming the sixth-largest economy worldwide when measured by purchasing power parity (PPP).

Let’s unite for the greater good

Indonesia, like most nations, was severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to its shift down from upper-middle income to lower-middle income status as of July 2021.

Recognising the pandemic’s devastating economic and human toll, the Indonesian Presidency chose the theme “Recover Together, Recover Stronger” for the G20 summit last October. 

This theme encompassed three pillars: global health architecture, sustainable energy transition, and digital transformation. 

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, by emphasising these issues, called upon world leaders to unite for the greater good. 

In light of the current geopolitical tensions ignited by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Indonesia urged nations to set aside their differences to uphold the multilateral system, especially crucial for the stability of developing nations.

Elevating key industries along the global value chain

Since February last year, when Indonesia’s gross domestic product (GDP) rebounded to pre-pandemic levels with over 5% annual growth, the nation showcased a remarkable capacity for recovery. 

Key drivers of this resurgence included a surge in household consumption, the gradual easing of pandemic restrictions, supportive fiscal policies, and substantial growth in commodity exports. 

Notably, Indonesia’s trade performance has thrived due to elevated global commodity prices, encompassing coal, palm oil, iron, and steel shipments, as underscored by the Head of Statistics Indonesia, Margo Yuwono.

With the OECD’s economic outlook predicting a moderation in global GDP growth, it is evident that Indonesia’s current account cannot perpetually rely on high natural resource prices. 

Thus, both the government and the private sector have taken proactive steps to elevate key industries along the global value chain. 

One government initiative led by President Jokowi involved imposing export restrictions on raw minerals in 2020, compelling foreign companies to invest in Indonesian smelters to retain access to nickel resources. 

While this move faced legal challenges from the EU, it is estimated that the development of downstream facilities boosted the total added value of nickel commodities by approximately $12 billion in 2022.

From the fledging EV sector to a move toward cleaner tech

At the same time, the private sector has complemented these efforts to attract investment by expanding their capacities across various sectors, including the burgeoning electric vehicle (EV) market. 

Indonesia, boasting the world’s third-largest two-wheeler market with approximately 6 million motorcycles sold annually, holds vast potential in the EV sector, and private actors like Indika Energy are responding with complete mobility solutions.


Indonesia’s substantial reserves of a vital mineral essential for EV batteries present a significant opportunity for public and private sectors to collaborate in transforming Indonesia and ASEAN into a global hub for EV production. 

With this long-term vision in mind, Indonesia’s private sector has actively embraced innovative technology to make mineral processing more sustainable for local communities and the environment. 

An illustrative case is our adoption of the groundbreaking DNi technology, enabling nickel producers to utilise lower-grade ores to produce high-grade nickel, with over 98% of nitric acid being recyclable, all while minimising waste streams. 

This not only addressed Indonesia’s historical underinvestment in ore processing but also facilitated the expansion of facilities powered by cleaner technologies.

The world’s fourth most populous nation wants to lead by example

By aligning its long-term development goals with a carbon-neutral strategy, Indonesia exemplifies how the public and private sectors can effectively collaborate to drive sustainable and resilient economic growth. 


At the ASEAN BAC summit, the potential of public-private cooperation emerged as a central theme, emphasising the private sector’s role in catalysing policy reforms that can position ASEAN at the epicentre of global economic interconnectedness.

In my capacity as Chair of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, KADIN, I have reiterated this point on numerous occasions, emphasising that while ASEAN has made significant progress in promoting such partnerships — including with Europe — it remains an ongoing journey of growth and development.

From the G20 Summit in 2022 to the recent ASEAN BAC Summit, Indonesia has undeniably showcased its role as a global leader. 

As the world’s fourth-most-populous nation, composed of over 13,000 islands, Indonesia is harnessing its unique characteristics to its advantage. 

Amidst a global landscape riddled with rivalries, Indonesia continues to lead by example, advocating for nations to collaborate on pressing global issues — serving as a geopolitical and economic bridge — while actively involving the private sector and its dynamic capabilities. 


It is no surprise therefore that Indonesia has been hailed as one of the most promising prospects on the global stage in the years to come — and the West should take notice.

Arsjad Rasjid chairs the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KADIN) and the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC). He also serves as President Director of Indika Energy.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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A market slaughtering dogs was a top tourist attraction. Then a video was leaked

The Tomohon Extreme Market was once a top tourist attraction in the Indonesian province of North Sulawesi — a live animal market filled with everything from fileted pythons to skewered bats and rats.

But the market drew international condemnation in 2018 after animal activists shot videos of dogs and cats being brutally beaten and blowtorched alive.

Activists urged major travel companies to stop recommending the market as a tourism site, said Lola Webber, Humane Society International’s director of campaigns.

Companies like Tripadvisor swiftly complied, she said.

But banning the dog and cat meat trade — part of a long-held tradition among the local Minahasa people — was significantly harder, she said.

“We were told by many for many years, you’ll never change North Sulawesi, you’ll never change Tomohon. it is impossible,” Webber said.

They were wrong.

A ‘huge win’

After the ban went into effect, 25 dogs and three cats were rescued. They were taken to a sanctuary run by Animal Friends Manado Indonesia for quarantine, after which they will hopefully be placed in their “forever homes, either within Indonesia or internationally,” said Humane Society International’s Lola Webber

Source: Humane Society International

“It’s an enormous victory for animal protection and literally the thousands and thousands of dogs and cats that are spared from Tomohon market every month,” she said.

The traders were given a “small grant” to stop participating in the trade, she told CNBC Travel, while the coalition of activists lobbied the government about the disease risks of live animal markets, which ranges from viruses like Covid-19 to rabies.

Rabies is endemic in much of Indonesia, including the island of Sulawesi, according to the World Health Organization.

Next steps

The ban of dog and cat meat in the Tomohon market is a step in the right direction, but problems with the trade don’t end there, said Michael Patching, chairperson of Impetus Animal Welfare.

One issue is an influx of stray animals, he said. “Bali dealt with this issue by poisoning stray dogs, which ended up being just as bad, if not worse, than those that have been subjected to the dog meat trade.”

A live dog can cost up to $40, and one that has already been killed is priced from $2.30 to $4 per kilogram, said Frank Delano Manus of Animal Friends Manado Indonesia.

Source: Humane Society International

To combat this, the Dog Meat Free Indonesia coalition is supporting programs to spay, neuter and vaccinate dogs and cats in Indonesia, said Webber.

She said she hopes to use the Tomohon market ban as a precedent to work with government, market management, meat traders and the public in other provinces where dog meat is eaten too.

Polling suggests only 5% of Indonesia’s population has ever tried it, said Webber. Yet there are hot spots where it’s eaten, like Java’s Surakarta (or Solo) and North Sulawesi, the latter being a predominantly Christian enclave in a Muslim-majority nation. (Like pigs, dogs are viewed as being unclean, and therefore not suitable for consumption, in the Muslim faith.)

Humane Society International's Lola Webber speaks about rescuing dogs and cats after Tomohon market ban

In those areas, activists raise public awareness of the cruelty of the trade and the trafficking that goes along with it, which often involves the theft of family pets.

“We’ve interviewed so many people who’ve had their dogs and cats stolen,” Webber said.

Poor governance

Many activists who spoke to CNBC Travel said poor governance is the biggest hurdle to ending the dog and cat meat trade.

Frank Delano Manus, an animal rights advocate at Animal Friends Manado Indonesia, said 95% of North Sulawesi’s exotic animal meat is sent from neighboring provinces — without government checks or quarantine regulations.

A timeline of Indonesia’s dog meat trade

  • 2017: Bali cracks down on dog meat vendors
  • 2019: The regency of Karanganyar in central Java bans the dog trade
  • 2022: The city of Medan and the capital city of Jakarta ban dog meat
  • Today: Bans exist in 22 cities and regencies

Indonesian officials did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

When his organization tried to ban the sale of snake and bat meat when the pandemic hit in 2020, it received a “flat response” from the government, he said.

“When people ask me what’s the number one problem in Indonesia, I always say it’s the lack of law enforcement,” Manus told CNBC.

Indonesia has a huge pet-loving community, said Webber, which includes the dog meat traders. “Every trader has a pet, at least one pet dog.”

Source: Humane Society International

The sale of dog meat is illegal other parts of Asia, including Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan. But the industry lives on in places like China and South Korea — and Vietnam.

“While all the focus has been on South Korea, Indonesia and other countries, Vietnam’s dog and cat meat trade has continued to thrive,” said Rahul Sehgal, director of international advocacy at the Soi Dog Foundation, adding that “millions of signatures” on online petitions have not made a difference.

Rescued animals being transported by members of the Humane Society International to a care and rehabilitation center on July 21, 2023, in North Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Source: Humane Society International

“In Vietnam, every third shop is a pet grooming salon, every fifth shop is a pet supply store, but every twentieth shop is a slaughterhouse or a restaurant that is selling dog or cat meat,” he told CNBC, adding that it’s eaten for cultural, superstitious and medicinal purposes.

“Just like how the Chinese use rhino horns or tiger bones for traditional medicine, cat bones are said to cure a host of illnesses like asthma,” he said. “But there is no scientific basis to this.”

An opening for more travelers

Though Tomohon Extreme Market was once marketed as a tourist attraction — and in some places, it still is — the dog and cat meat ban may bring in more travelers to North Sulawesi.

In a Tripadvisor post on March 5, a user discusses reading about Sulawesi’s dog meat trade.

The post states: “Well the next trip was going to be to Sulawesi, Indonesia … I don’t care what you eat, but torture should not be a part of it. Therefore I cannot in good conscience travel there.”

A screenshot of a post on Tripadvisor in a forum discussing Sulawesi.

Screen shot from Tripadvisor

Negative media attention frustrated the dog meat traders, Webber said.

“People would see it, and feel very strongly about it,” she said. “International tourists, national tourists, and locals themselves didn’t want to see that degree of brutality.”

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Vietnam Bans Barbie Movie, Because ‘Map’

If there’s one thing we learned from “The West Wing,” it’s that Democrats need to find Republicans of goodwill who are willing to put America above partisan bickering, and … wait, that’s bullshit. But the episode where the “Organization of Cartographers for Social Equality” explained that maps can be very political, that one holds up pretty good. The Mercator projection really has encouraged “an imperialist European attitude for centuries and has created ethnic prejudices against the Third World,” and anyone who says otherwise is itchin’ for a fight.

Naturally enough, that brings us to the new Barbie movie directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Margot Robbie as the eponymous fashion doll. The trailer is ridiculously fun, but includes a detail that seems to have led the nation of Vietnam to ban distribution of the film. Namely, a cartoony world map includes a little bitty dashed line off the coast of “Asia,” and Vietnam says that means the movie endorses China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Here’s the trailer; the blink-and-you’ll miss it offense to Vietnam’s sovereignty appears at roughly the 1-minute mark, when Laurie Anderson Barbie Kate McKinnon Barbie advises Main Character Barbie she must go to the Real World and learn how human feet operate, we think.

The movie had been scheduled to open in Vietnam July 21, but Vietnam’s state media announced that the government banned the film Monday, as the AP explains:

The reports cited Vi Kien Thanh, director general of the Vietnam Cinema Department, as saying the National Film Evaluation Council made the decision. It said a map in the film shows China’s “nine-dash line,” which extends Beijing’s territorial claims far into waters that fall within areas claimed by Vietnam and other countries.

The “nine-dash line” is an arcane but sensitive issue for China and its neighbors that shows Beijing’s maritime border extending into areas claimed by other governments and encompasses most of the South China Sea. That has brought it into tense standoffs with the ASEAN nations of Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines, with Chinese fishing boats and military vessels becoming more aggressive in the disputed waters.

Here’s a map, drawn by professors Mark Raymond of the University of Oklahoma and David A. Welch of the University of Waterloo, in Canada-land, for their paper “What’s Really Going On in the South China Sea?” You can see why Vietnamese officials mockingly call the area claimed by China the “cow-tongue line.”

Map by Mark Raymond and David A. Welch

We should also point out that the map in the trailer only has eight dashes, so perhaps it depicts some other planet altogether.

State newspaper Vietnam Plus said that the inclusion of the squiggle in a cartoon map “distorts the truth, violates the law in general and violates sovereignty of Vietnamese territory in particular,” although it remains unclear how exactly the Barbie movie could in practical terms make the international boundary dispute any worse. The UN seems unlikely to determine that China can fish in the area because International Incident Barbie said so in a one-second clip.

Still, national pride and all that; no doubt patriotic Americans would be very put out if a Saudi-owned “news” network depicted part of the United States as belonging to a foreign country.

Screenshot of a 2020 Fox News map with Michigan's Upper Peninsula labeled

The AP reports that Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning, when asked about the matter Tuesday, did not consider life in plastic so fantastic, adding that

“China’s position on the South China Sea issue is clear and consistent.”

“We believe that the countries concerned should not link the South China Sea issue with normal cultural and people-to-people exchanges”

For what it’s worth — very little, since China ignored the decision altogether — a 2016 international tribunal in the Hague found China’s territorial claims to the waters had no merit, but as we just said in what’s now a redundant part of this sentence, China rejected the judgment and continues to claim the area.

So far, nobody involved with the movie has commented on how the controversial squiggle came to be included, although China is notorious for having its own angry reactions to western entertainment or sportsball players who express support for Hong Kong or Taiwan. Our own very deep foreign policy analysis concludes that somebody on the production staff said “well, better include the squiggle if we want to show this in China,” figuring that revenues from China would more than make up for any losses in Vietnam.

There’s nothing terribly new about this, either: Vietnam previously banned the 2022 film Uncharted and 2019’s Abominable for maps showing the Chinese Domination Squiggle. In fact, the scene in the latter completely forgettable kid flick led politicians in the Philippines to call for a boycott of all DreamWorks films, and Malaysia refused to distribute the movie until the scene was cut altogether.

As it happens, Vietnam also launched an investigation this week into the K-Pop group “Blackpink” because a website for its Vietnamese tour included a similarly offensive map. The tour organizer called the incident an “unfortunate misunderstanding” and pledged that the website had been updated, although the site remains down, Reuters reports.

Also, in the latest wrinkle of this developing international crisis, the Philippines is debating whether to ban Barbie as well.

How silly all these foreigns are, launching boycotts and censoring an innocent entertainment over such a nothingburger!

Meanwhile, in the Freest, Greatest, Most Liberty-est Nation on Earth, we’re firing teachers and banning books over the fear that encouraging everyone to get along and accept each other’s differences will lead to nine-year-olds falling into a life of depravity, or because schools might accurately depict our very real history.

Also, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) has now twice condemned the Barbie movie, tweeting yesterday that

Leftist Hollywood’s new ‘Barbie’ movie shows a map that supports Communist China’s territorial claims to the South China Sea.

Looks like ‘Barbie’ is bending to Beijing to make a quick buck.

Blackburn followed that up today by insisting that we all take her seriously, since a fun summer movie about a pop culture icon is actually causing human rights abuses, no really she is serious, if that squiggle were removed, the camps would be opened and the Uyghurs would be freed.

Hollywood & the Left are more concerned with selling films in Communist China than standing up to the regime’s human rights abuses.

The ‘Barbie’ movie’s depiction of a map endorsing Beijing’s claims to the South China Sea is legally & morally wrong and must be taken seriously.

Strangely, not a single Republican has stepped forward to demand that Mattel include realistic genitals on Ken and Barbie, since surely the dolls as they’ve existed for 70 years encourage androgyny.

[AP / NYT / CNBC / Reuters / Sage Journals]

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These high school sweethearts have visited 112 countries. Here’s how they pay for it on a budget

Most people have a travel bucket list, perhaps with 10 to 15 countries.

For this couple, it’s all 195 — and they’re more than halfway there.

Hudson and Emily Crider have visited 112 countries, but their journey together began long before that. Both are from the “same small town” of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They met in fifth grade and started dating in high school, the couple said.

Speaking to CNBC via video from Chiang Mai, Thailand, the couple explained that their goal in college was to buy an RV and travel to all 50 states in the United States.

Hudson and Emily Crider in high school.

Hudson and Emily Crider

They began to save for that goal after getting married in 2012, but just a few years later, Hudson’s father died of a heart attack. “It was a reminder to us that we’re not guaranteed another day,” said Hudson, 32.

That motivated them to “sell everything and buy this old RV,” said Hudson. The couple left their jobs — Emily as a marketing manager in an agency, Hudson as a financial planner — in the Washington D.C.-Baltimore area, said Emily, 31. Just two years later, they accomplished their goal of traveling to all 50 states.

So they set their sights higher.

Now, as the couple pursue their goal of traveling to every country in the world, they spend less than when they lived in D.C., said Emily. “The thing we found most helpful is eliminating expenses,” said Hudson. “We don’t have a house, car, kids and also make sure to budget.”

The couple have met people on the road who have children, or a home that they’re renting out to travel long term, said Emily. “We really believe there’s not a right or wrong way to travel,” she said.

Hudson and Emily Crider on a safari in Kenya, Africa.

Hudson and Emily Crider

The couple work remotely while on the road to support their travels, said Hudson. They teach English online, create content on YouTube and Instagram, and sell products like clip-on hand sanitizer holders on Amazon.

Although every traveler has different circumstances, being able to research and read reviews on the internet makes travel “the most open that it’s ever been,” said Hudson.

The couple’s own style of traveling helps them save on food, attractions and local culture in countries they visit, no matter how expensive.

Least to most expensive regions

The Criders have traveled to every continent except Antarctica, they said. The following is their ranking of the world’s major regions based on the cost of travel — from the least to most expensive:

  1. Asia
  2. South America
  3. Africa
  4. Middle East
  5. Australia
  6. Europe
  7. North America


Food is one of the categories of travel that “people plan the least for,” yet it’s the cost that is “easiest to add up,” the couple told CNBC. In Bali, Indonesia, they kept those costs low by eating street food like nasi goreng, spending as little as $1 per meal.

Trying street food is a “great way to taste local food and culture,” said Emily. Their favorite Asian cuisines include pad Thai and khao soi from Thailand and Vietnamese banh mi, she said.

The couple save on housing, their second biggest expense, by doing homestays with locals. In Bali, they stayed with the “sweetest family” for just $4 per night, said Emily.

Hudson trying an organ sandwich in Marrakech, Morocco.

Hudson and Emily Crider

The couple also use, a site where travelers can find locals offering free housing. In Switzerland, they stayed with another couple who made them raclette, a traditional Swiss dish, and took them paragliding, said Emily.

Homestays are a great way to connect with local people, said Emily. “When you’re quickly going to a place and taking pictures of tourist sites, you don’t always get the full picture.”

South America

South America was the third cheapest for activities, at an average of $15.00 per experience, the couple told CNBC. Many activities were free, they added.

The couple research and budget for the main activities they want to do before visiting any country, they said.

Hudson and Emily Crider on a hike in Patagonia, South America.

Hudson and Emily Crider

They hiked through “amazing” places like Patagonia and Peru without booking a guide, said Hudson. With online resources, “it was so easy to find it ourselves,” he said.

The couple call this “do-it-yourself style travel,” where they find transportation and explore cities without having to book a tour, said Emily.


“Do-it-yourself” travel even extends to safaris, according to the couple.

In East Africa, Hudson and Emily rented a car and drove through the Serengeti on their own.

Hudson and Emily Crider camping during their self-drive safari in the Serengeti in Tanzania.

Hudson and Emily Crider

“It was more of an adventure than we signed up for, but it was a good way to save money,” said Emily.

Middle East

Transportation typically means metros, buses or tuk-tuks instead of taxis and Uber, the couple said.

Hudson and Emily Crider in Petra, Jordan.

Hudson and Emily Crider

But renting a car can also be worth it.

The couple spent the most on transportation in the Middle East, at an average of $14.00 per ride, they told CNBC.

“If anybody’s traveling to Jordan in particular, rent a car — it’s a great way to meet local people,” said Hudson.


The couple spent $85 on a harbor cruise in Sydney that went past the Sydney Opera House. “We prefer to spend a little less money on housing and food and more on experiences,” said Emily.

They spent the most on activities in Australia, with an average of $42.50 per experience. Transportation, however, was the second-least costly, at an average of $3 per ride.

The cruise was also an example of how the couple create content on the road, as they partnered with a company to promote the experience, said Hudson.


By saving a little bit in every category, the couple save a lot of money in the long run, they told CNBC. They did the same in Europe, which was the second-most expensive for housing, food and transportation.

It helps to spend less time staying in the more expensive areas, said Hudson. Compared with Paris, cities like Prague and Budapest are “equally beautiful” but have housing that is “half the cost,” he added.

Hudson and Emily Crider paragliding in Switzerland.

Hudson and Emily Crider

To get around, the couple used the Eurail unlimited pass to travel to as many places as they wanted within a booked time period, said Hudson. Budget airlines like Wow Air and Ryanair were also “amazing” options, he said.

“We would get a €12.00 flight and spend more on getting the Uber to the airport,” he quipped.

They used Google to find accommodations based on budget, then booked using Airbnb or for the “best deals,” said Emily. They typically did a “really cheap hotel or motel” in Europe as it was often less expensive than a hostel, she added.

North America

Although New York consistently ranks as the most expensive city in the U.S., it is a popular destination for travelers who visit North America, said Hudson.

The couple got around by walking or riding on New York’s “amazing” subway system for $2.75 per trip, he said. They used Google Maps to access bus and metro times in almost every major city they visited, they said.

They also said they use blogs and Facebook groups to find suggestions for public transportation too.

More tips

Hudson and Emily try to strike a balance between “comfort and cost” when picking accommodations, they told CNBC.

That often leads to a choice between air conditioning and Wi-Fi, said Hudson. (They rarely compromise on the Wi-Fi.)

Reading an accommodation’s newest reviews gives a “current update of someone’s experience staying there,” said Emily.

“We don’t book places without reviews within the past four or five months.

A hostel room where the Criders stayed in Sydney, Australia.

Hudson and Emily Crider

Bonus points on credit cards also help to save money, said Emily. “Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards are our favorite because those can be transferred to a lot of different hotels and airlines,” she said.

The couple plan for future trips by using Google Flights to notify them if a flight price drops below a certain amount, said Emily. Instead of being fixed on one specific destination, pick five places you want to visit and set notifications for them, she recommended.

As for Hudson and Emily, they have set their sights on more places than that.

They are headed to West Africa next, they said.

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