Indonesian police have used water cannon and teargas to disperse protesters rallying against a new jobs law in two cities on the island of Java, according to a police spokesman and media reports.
Thousands of workers and students had protested peacefully across the archipelago on Tuesday at the start of a three-day national strike against president Joko Widodo’s “omnibus” job creation bill, which was passed into law on Monday.
Elshinta radio posted a video on its official Twitter account showing police late in the evening using water cannon against hundreds of protesters in the city of Serang in Banten province, about 70km (43.5 miles) to the west of Jakarta.
Other posts on social media also appeared to show water cannon being used on students in Serang.
Banten police spokesman, Edy Sumardi Priadinata, said via text message that the situation was under control by 9:15 pm local time on Tuesday and that two police officers had been injured by rocks thrown at them, but did not respond to further queries.
In Bandung, the capital of West Java province, police used tear gas against protesters who hurled rocks and fire crackers and damaged a police car, according to news website Detik.com.
The website also reported police had arrested 10 protesters.
The spokesman of West Java police could not immediately be reached for comment.
There was no significant demonstration in Jakarta. Police blocked workers from protesting in front of the national parliament, citing the need to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Critics of the omnibus law, which revises more than 70 existing laws to accelerate reform of south-east Asia’s largest economy, say it is too pro-business with its removal of labour protections and relaxation of environmental rules.
Government officials say the law relaxes rigid labour rules and streamlines environmental rules in order to improve the investment climate and create jobs.
Indonesian markets cheered the passage of the bill, with the main stock index up as much as 1.31% and the rupiah also gaining. lifting 1.28%, before paring some gains.
The government’s investment board said it would lead to better welfare for workers by facilitating more foreign investment.
Citibank, in a research note, said the law simplifies business licensing and addresses restrictive trade and labour policies, but added that immediate foreign investment was unlikely in the currently depressed global economic climate.
Trimegah Securities economist, Fakhrul Fulvian, said banks and export-oriented industries should benefit from the law, while consumer and retail sectors may be pressured as workers may increase savings to compensate for changes in labour rules.
However, many Indonesians criticised the law on Twitter, with one trending hashtag incorporating an expletive against parliament and another calling lawmakers traitors.