Entourage's Bali visit becomes military exercise for host

Saudi Arabia's King Salman has been in several light-hearted selfies on his Asian tour, such as this one with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak during his first stop.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman has been in several light-hearted selfies on his Asian tour, such as this one with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak during his first stop.PHOTO: NAJIB RAZAK/FACEBOOK

NUSA DUA (Bali) • A Bali beach holiday for Saudi Arabia's King Salman and his considerable entourage has turned into a military exercise for host Indonesia.

The octogenarian monarch and his entourage of 1,500, including 25 princes and 10 ministers, fly to Indonesia's Bali island today, aboard nine passenger jets, for a private vacation. They will be guarded by at least 2,500 police and military personnel, as well as naval vessels parked offshore.

The King's Boeing 747 jet will be met at the airport by his usual gold-coloured escalator.

Flown in ahead of the visit were two planeloads of cargo, including two bulletproof Mercedes-Benzes, said Customs official Budi Harjanto.

King Salman's tour of Asia aims to build the kingdom's ties with fast-growing Asian economies and drum up investment to diversify the Saudi economy away from dependence on oil.

The extravagance of his official trip, punctuated by holidays, comes after an austerity drive at home caused by low oil prices.

On the white-sand beach in front of Bali's St Regis resort, 2m-high screens have been put up to shield guests from prying eyes.

A staircase has been built for the royals to access the water.

"There will definitely be marine security," said Bali's Udayana military chief Kustanto Widiatmoko. He added that six ships would be deployed along with anti-terrorism police and snipers.

The King's vacations have been controversial at times due to the disruption they cause.

He cut short a 2015 French Riviera holiday after local outrage erupted when the public beach in Vallauris was shut and concrete poured on the sand for a temporary lift.

King Salman kicked off his Asian tour in Malaysia on Sunday, and will also visit Brunei, Japan, China, the Maldives and Jordan on his month-long swing through the region.

The King's three-day state visit in Jakarta this week focused on building cultural and religious ties and promoting education, as well as efforts to contain radical Islam in the world's most populous Muslim country.

The King met Indonesia's Islamic leaders in Jakarta on Thursday. Yesterday, he held a meeting with 28 interfaith leaders.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2017, with the headline 'Entourage's Bali visit becomes military exercise for host'. Print Edition | Subscribe