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‘You Can’t Bribe Crocodiles,’ Says Indonesian Who Suggests Guarding Prison With Crocodiles

An Indonesian official who suggested using crocodiles to guard an island prison has now suggested adding tigers and piranhas to the mix.

Indonesian police stand guard to secure the area around Kerobokan prison in Denpasar on Bali island on March 4, 2015 as authorities take two Australian drug smugglers on death row from the prison to the airport for a flight to transfer them to a high-security prison off Java island ahead of their planned execution. Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" drug smuggling gang, were woken up early and given a few minutes to get ready, a local justice ministry official said. The men, in their early 30s, were convicted of trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia in 2005 and sentenced to death the following year. AFP PHOTO / SONNY TUMBELAKA        (Photo credit should read SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP/Getty Images)
Indonesian police stand guard to secure the area around Kerobokan prison in Denpasar on Bali island on March 4, 2015 as authorities take two Australian drug smugglers on death row from the prison to the airport for a flight to transfer them to a high-security prison off Java island ahead of their planned execution. Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" drug smuggling gang, were woken up early and given a few minutes to get ready, a local justice ministry official said. The men, in their early 30s, were convicted of trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia in 2005 and sentenced to death the following year. AFP PHOTO / SONNY TUMBELAKA (Photo credit should read SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP/Getty Images)

Indonesian officials take drug trafficking so seriously that those found guilty can be subject to death by firing squad — the same capital punishment carried out against murderers or terrorists.

And now, drug smuggling offenders waiting on death row may have even more to worry about.

This week, Budi Waseso, Indonesia’s anti-drug czar, suggested the government build a prison island to house the drug offenders, and then surround it with “the most ferocious type of crocodile.”

“We will place as many crocodiles as we can there,” he reportedly said. “You can’t bribe crocodiles. You can’t convince them to let inmates escape.”

And on Friday, despite being widely mocked for his recently introduced plan, Waseso took it one step further. “It is also possible we may use piranhas, and because the number of personnel at the prison might not be enough, we can also use tigers,” he said.

Waseso’s island prison may sound more like a scene out of James Bond’s Live and Let Die than a legitimate option for how Indonesian authorities can handle drug smuggling.

But for a country with some of the strictest drug policies in the world, it may not be as implausible as it sounds. Despite the harsh penalties for drug smuggling, Indonesian officials claim that imprisoned drug lords at time work with or bribe the guards.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has called drug smuggling a “national emergency,” and despite widespread international condemnation, seven foreign drug smugglers and one Indonesian were killed by firing squads in April.

According to the Guardian, the police officers tasked with shooting death row inmates are paid roughly $100 extra for the task.

“I don’t make conversation with the prisoners. I treat them like they are a member of my own family,” one anonymous officer told the Guardian. “I say only, ‘I’m sorry, I am just doing the job.’”

The crocodiles would likely not be so sympathetic. But Slamet Pribadi, a spokesman for Indonesia’s anti-drugs agency, defended Waseso’s plan.

“This is serious, this is not a joke,” he told Agence France-Presse. “Drug trafficking is an extraordinary crime and therefore the fight must also be extraordinary, we cannot fight the usual way.”

Crocodiles, man-eating piranhas and tigers? Extraordinary indeed.

Photo Credit: SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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