Indonesians collect coins to protest Australia PM Abbott's aid comments

JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesian demonstrators Tuesday delivered bags of coins to the Australian embassy, saying they were handing back tsunami aid money after Canberra sought to use the issue to pressure Jakarta into halting the execution of two Australians.

Shouting "Shut Abbott's mouth" and "Abbott, say sorry", they trampled on a poster bearing a picture of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott with tape plastered over his mouth, as they handed over the coins.

Abbott last month said Jakarta should remember the US$1 billion (S$1.39 billion) of assistance sent from Australia in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed around 220,000 people.

His remarks were aimed at persuading Jakarta to halt the impending execution of the Australian ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" heroin smuggling gang, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who are expected to be put to death soon.

But the bid backfired and caused great offence in Indonesia, where groups of protesters started a campaign to collect coins to pay back the Australian aid.

At the latest protest in front of the Australian embassy in Jakarta in recent weeks, a group of about 30 students handed over seven plastic bags of coins and bills to embassy personnel, totalling about seven million rupiah (S$740).

"What Abbott did was a low-class act," campaign coordinator Andi Sinulingga told AFP.

"He could have been more civilised and polite.

"We never asked for help but Australia offered to do so. If we knew they were not sincere, we would have rejected it," he added.

Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 33, were sentenced to death for trying to traffic drugs out of Indonesia in 2006. They are expected to be executed soon following the recent rejection of their appeals for presidential clemency.

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