News National Aussie flag burned as Indonesia spying anger grows

Aussie flag burned as Indonesia spying anger grows

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Hundreds of riot police are on standby near the Australian embassy in Jakarta in preparation for protests over the tapping of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s phone.

More than 100 of the Indonesian National Police’s Mobile Brigade (BRIMOB), armed with riot shields and tear gas, were stationed in front of the embassy on Thursday.

Another 300 BRIMOB officers were on standby at a nearby location, a police spokesman told AAP.

There were also balaclava-clad security officers with binoculars stationed on an overpass close to the compound.

Demonstrators in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta have already burnt an Australian flag in protest over the alleged tapping as anti-Australian sentiment continues to escalate.

The large group of protesters in Yogyakarta, a hotbed of student activism, had demanded an apology from Prime Minister Tony Abbott and asked the Indonesian president to sever diplomatic ties with Canberra, reports said.

It’s understood the Australian government has already taken precautions to ensure the safety of staff at the embassy in Jakarta before the protest.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has updated its travel advice in response to the protest plan.

“Local police advise that a demonstration is planned for outside the Australian Embassy,” DFAT said.

“Australians should monitor local media, avoid protests, maintain high levels of vigilance and security awareness.”

The ramping up in nationalism and anger towards Australia came as a close confidant of Dr Yudhoyono warned relations with Australia may not recover unless Mr Abbott apologised over the spying allegations that prompted the current diplomatic crisis.

Ramadhan Pohan, whose niece is married to the president’s oldest son, has urged Mr Abbott to apologise over the spying row by Thursday night.

Mr Ramadhan is also an MP with Dr Yudhoyono’s ruling Democrat Party and a member of the parliament’s powerful foreign affairs and defence committee.

“If Abbott does not apologise by [Thursday] night … I predict that it will be the last night of Indonesia and Australia’s friendship,” Mr Ramadhan reportedly told late on Wednesday night.

The warning came in the wake of Dr Yudhoyono’s announcement on Wednesday that Indonesia was immediately cutting defence ties and co-operation on efforts aimed at combating people smuggling.

Dr Yudhoyono said he would send a letter to Mr Abbott, demanding an official apology and a full explanation as to why Australian spies targeted his mobile phone in 2009, as well as that of his wife and some of his closest confidants.

Dr Yudhoyono said he wanted a personal explanation, insisting comments directed at “Australia’s domestic community” would not suffice.

Mr Abbott has said he would respond to the official communication, but still refused on Wednesday to apologise for the spying, instead appearing to blame media coverage for the deterioration in diplomatic relations.

“I want to express here in this chamber, my deep and sincere regret about the embarrassment to the president and to Indonesia that’s been caused by recent media reporting,” Mr Abbott said.

The Indonesian president signed the letter on Wednesday night, officials confirmed.

The letter has been delivered to the Indonesian foreign ministry, and they will pass it on to the Australian government.

A banner was hung on the overpass near the compound, demanding an immediate apology from Mr Abbott.

“Indonesian People Demanding … Australian PM Tony Abbott must immediately apology to all Indonesian people,” the banner read.

“Australia must never ever try to attack the dignity of our nation.”


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