Indonesia bans police, troops from playing Pokemon Go; presidential palace also bans game

People play Pokemon Go on their mobile phones near the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia, on July 20.
People play Pokemon Go on their mobile phones near the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia, on July 20.PHOTO: EPA

JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesia is banning police and military personnel from playing Pokemon Go while on duty, officials said on Wednesday (July 20), after the defence minister warned the smartphone game was a security threat.

It came as the Jakarta presidential palace also prohibited playing the popular game around the premises, with signs appearing that read: "Playing or hunting Pokemon is forbidden in the area of the palace."

Indonesians have joined the frenzy for the game, which has become a worldwide hit since launching two weeks ago and has already been blamed for a wave of crimes, traffic violations and complaints in cities around the globe.

Despite Pokemon Go not yet being officially available in Indonesia, many have downloaded it illegally and taken to the streets to hunt for virtual "pocket monsters". But its popularity has caused concern among the security establishment's top echelons, with officials suggesting its high-tech capabilities could be put to use in spying.

"Spying can come in different forms," said hardline Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu. "At first, it (Pokemon Go) appears cute but the longer you see... it is just not right."

The military will soon issue an order banning all personnel from playing Pokemon Go during work hours as it seeks to protect high-security sites, military spokesman Tatang Sulaiman told AFP.

The order will note concerns that devices being used to play the game can send data over the Internet to other countries.

At the presidential palace, press chief Bey Machmudin said the ban had been introduced as "this is the president's office not a playground". It came several days after a minister said he had spotted some Pokemon in the palace.

The announcement came after a Frenchman was briefly detained this week when he accidentally wandered onto a military base on Java island as he played Pokemon Go.

Police officers across the country were already sent an order on Tuesday banning them from playing the game while on duty, a spokesman said.

"We are worried that police officers may become addicted and we don't want that because a police officer's duty is to serve the public. The job requires hard work and concentration," said national police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar.

He also said the police had been instructed to be on heightened alert for terror threats. Earlier this month, a suicide bomber attacked a police station in the city of Solo, injuring one officer.

Pokemon Go uses smartphone satellite location, graphics and camera capabilities to overlay cartoon monsters on real-world settings, challenging players to capture and train the creatures for battles.