"Bali Doesn't Need Trash Tourists": Balinese Demand Stricter Control Over Foreigners

"This is disrespectful, they cannot be allowed to behave like this, they are guests," "a new colonization has crept in unnoticed," "if you let them live here by their own rules, you will never get Bali back" — dozens of angry posts on social media from outraged Balinese forced Indonesian Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Sandiaga Uno to reassure the public.
Photo: Istockphoto
"Yes, of course, we note the financial expansion of foreigners. And we must protect our citizens, give them more opportunities. It is necessary to follow the rules we have. Foreign-owned enterprises must comply with laws and regulations. They are not allowed to profit in sectors that are restricted for non-citizens."
The surge of negativity towards Russian-speaking expatriates flared up on social media following a misunderstanding involving the renaming of the central district of Canggu to "New Moscow" on Google Maps. This prank sparked outrage among local residents. The situation was further inflamed by reports of a drug lab being busted by the police (with Russian-speaking individuals involved in large-scale production of banned substances) and a scandal involving the gang rape of a Belarusian girl, in which she accused three Russians. Additionally, there was a viral video involving a "gasoline shower," supposedly also featuring Russian-speaking models.
The notorious activist Niluh, who is well-known to Russians, did not stay silent either. Last spring, she was one of those who raised an uproar against the influx of Russian citizens, who were particularly numerous on the island. This time, Niluh reacted to the news of the potential resumption of direct flights from Russia, planned by several airlines.
"Bali does not need trash tourists," she wrote on her Instagram, posting a picture of Aeroflot airplanes. "We have too many problems with Russians. They violate not only immigration rules but also commit criminal offenses. From working as masseurs, photographers, and DJs to setting up drug labs and committing rapes," wrote the former candidate for governor of Bali, tagging influential Indonesian officials, including the country's Minister of Justice Yasonna Laoly and the head of Indonesia's immigration service Silmy Karim.
Minister Uno reiterated the necessity of holding foreign guests strictly accountable if they violate rules. This applies to tourists, investors, and foreign business owners. The Head of the Bali Provincial Tourism Office, Tjok Bagus Pemayun, also made a statement regarding the issue of "new colonization."
"Bali has a culture that we showcase to tourists. I will not use the word 'colonization,' but I do hear it more frequently from local residents. One thing is clear: foreign tourists must comply with the laws of Indonesia and Bali, in particular. Then they will not cause concern to the local community."
At the same time, authorities acknowledge that foreign investments are opportunities for growth. Sandiaga Uno previously spoke about money from Russia: "They invest and conduct activities here; we want everything to have a positive economic effect and protect national interests."
The importance of foreign capital in economic development is understood not only by officials. A tourism lecturer at Bali's Udayana University, Professor Dr. I Putu Anom, believes:
"This is a normal phenomenon because there are many Russian tourists in Canggu; there is nothing wrong with someone calling it New Moscow because of this. But if you look at the map now, the name hasn't changed, it still says 'Canggu Village.' This is just an illustration that there are many Russian tourists in Canggu."
"In my opinion, this phenomenon can have two sides: it can be both an opportunity and a threat. It depends on how the tourists behave. If they follow the rules, there is no danger."
Not long ago, the Directorate General of Immigration of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights launched a hotline for people to report suspicious activities or the legal status of foreign citizens. The head of the agency, Saffar Muhammad Godam, announced that the alert line is managed by the information and complaints service for immigration monitoring and law enforcement activities.
Reports of any information, including unverified ones, can be made via WhatsApp at (+62) 81399679966. "This immigration monitoring and enforcement hotline allows the public to file complaints about foreigners suspected of violating immigration rules," Saffar stated in an official announcement. He noted that this primarily concerns mismatches between visa types and the activities being conducted or overstaying (violating the allowed stay period after the visa expires).
Interestingly, Bali authorities respond quite quickly to incidents involving foreigners that go viral on social media. Sometimes, a short video of a violation is enough to lead to the expulsion of the tourist.
Recently, the role of the "hotline" for complaints about foreigners was played by the same Niluh. Her Instagram account was a complete collection of unsavory stories involving expatriates on the island.
Tourists have also been blamed for water shortages in East Bali. The crisis is allegedly due to large construction projects by foreign investors. This opinion was expressed by former Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri. She criticized the tourism policy established by the former governor, Wayan Koster:
"Tourism management is in a deplorable state. Local residents suffer from the consequences of this poor management. Tourism should be controlled and serve the interests of Balinese people. Perhaps, it is worth reconsidering the quotas on tourists."
Megawati complained that it is increasingly difficult for Balinese to enjoy the beauty and nature of their island due to the vast number of tourists. The former president of the country also suggested banning traditional dances in hotels, as this destroys the sacred spirit and turns the ancient ritual into a show.
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