Red alert on New Year's Eve - Asia

Police leave nothing to chance

Members of the Indonesian Presidential Security Forces (Paspampres) show their skills during the simulation of a terrorist attack in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Dec 29, 2016.
Members of the Indonesian Presidential Security Forces (Paspampres) show their skills during the simulation of a terrorist attack in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Dec 29, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

Revellers in Asian cities will be partying tonight under the watchful eyes of their police and military.

Indonesia, which has been on an offensive against suspected terrorists, is leaving nothing to chance after a series of bloody raids around the country in the past month.

Police spokesman Martinus Sitompul said yesterday that security is always stepped up during the festive season. "But this time around, it is special because we have had a record number of terrorist raids during the immediate period leading to the 2017 New Year's Eve celebration," he told reporters at a media briefing.

"The police have things under control, but we cannot be 100 per cent confident that there won't be any disturbance. We can do our utmost, relying on our personnel and equipment, to try to guarantee that the New Year's Eve celebration will take place safely and peacefully."

Jakarta police will be paying special attention to a few key areas: The Ancol park where 270,000 partygoers are expected to congregate, the roads around Thamrin Road and Sudirman Road, and a few areas outside the city centre where crowds are expected.

 
 
 

More than 155,000 police, soldiers and security personnel will be deployed, and the number could increase depending on the situation, said Colonel Martinus.

Both federal and state police have also been on high alert in Malaysia since before Christmas. Security has been beefed up at malls, entertainment outlets, houses of worship and embassies - places seen as symbolic targets for militants linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

However, Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed said the government was trying "not to have too much physical presence in public and focus more on prevention", as "people should feel free to enjoy their holidays".

Similarly, Philippine security officials have been on maximum alert since President Rodrigo Duterte declared a "state of emergency on account of lawless violence" following a terrorist attack that left 14 dead in Davao on Sept 2.

Police have set up mobile checkpoints across metropolitan Manila's 17 cities. Police chief Ronald dela Rosa has cancelled all police breaks from 5pm today to 5am tomorrow. Security forces have been deployed around bus terminals, train stations, airports and piers, as millions leave the cities to head to the provinces.

In Thailand, some 100,000 police officers will be patrolling the streets nationwide, especially in crowded tourist spots. They have prepared the Swat team, medics, explosive ordnance experts as well as aerial back-up to deal with emergencies. Deputy police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen told The Straits Times: "We haven't received any intelligence that would lead to a security situation. We remain vigilant."

In India's financial capital of Mumbai, the 55,000-strong police force has set up barricades to check vehicles entering areas popular with revellers. "Every police officer will be deployed. We are targeting grounds, open spaces and areas where there is a large gathering of crowds. We have also newly installed CCTV cameras in many places," said Mumbai police official Ashok Tulshiram Dudhe.

Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Shannon Teoh, Raul Dancel, Tan Hui Yee and Nirmala Ganapathy

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2016, with the headline 'Police leave nothing to chance'. Print Edition | Subscribe