JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Indonesian travellers are playing cat and mouse with law enforcement personnel as they insist on heading home despite the government's ban on this year's Idul Fitri mudik (exodus).
Travellers across Java have tried to dodge the police at checkpoints by hiding in truck containers or bus luggage compartments, avoiding toll roads with strict security and laying down under passenger seats to escape monitoring.
The operational head of the national police traffic corps, Senior Commander Benyamin, said travellers had used containers on the back of trucks to transport themselves and their vehicles, knowing that officers prioritised monitoring of private vehicles, buses and minibuses.
"As for freight trucks, they are allowed to operate so the economy can continue to run. These trucks were apparently used to transport travellers and their cars," Mr Benyamin said on Thursday (April 30), as quoted by Antara news agency.
The statement echoed Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo's previous claim, in which he said he had received reports and photographs showing travellers returning to their hometowns across the province, with their cars inside the truck containers.
Mr Benyamin said that, in addition to trucks, there were also those who hid in bus trunks in order to evade law enforcement officers.
"The buses were full of people, but they were not on seats, they were in the luggage compartment," he added.
He said the police had also gathered information that some travel agencies had offered services for those wishing to go back to their hometowns, riding though so-called jalan tikus (alleyways).
"They were arrested by the Jakarta police at the Cikarang Barat border," he said.
Since Monday, the number of vehicles on toll roads in Bekasi, West Java, and Tangerang, Banten, has decreased as travellers avoid security posts, but the number of vehicles intercepted on arterial roads has increased, Jakarta Police reported.
On an arterial road in Kedungwaringin, Bekasi, for example, traffic police officers recently discovered a group of travellers heading for Central Java by riding a bus with passenger seats laid back so as not to be seen from outside.
"These passengers deliberately reclined their seats and turned off the lights to evade officers," Jakarta police spokesman Yusri Yunus said on Thursday, reported Kompas.com.
Senior Commander Yusri said the bus driver claimed not to be carrying any passengers when the bus was stopped for inspection at the Kedungwaringin integrated security post at 10pm on Wednesday.
The bus is a double-decker and all passengers were later found hiding on the upper deck, the police reported. In its inspection, the police found out that the passengers paid 450,000 rupiah (S$42) per person to get on the bus.
Since April 24, a total of 171,000 police and military personnel and related agencies have been carrying out the so-called Operation Ketupat 2020 to oversee the mudik flow, which will end on May 31, the national police reported.
"As of the sixth day of the operation on Wednesday, we had asked some 15,239 motorists across Java to turn around," Mr Benyamin told Tempo.co on Thursday, adding that the Jakarta police had recorded the majority with 5,834 motorists.
Despite being caught ignoring the mudik ban, the motorists were only reprimanded by officers and not legally punished. Violators will be subject to the maximum punishment from May 7.
After previously only advising residents against participating in mudik, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo finally announced an outright ban on April 21, following a Transportation Ministry survey in which 24 respondents still insisted on travelling home during Ramadan.