Extortion Has Substantial Impact on Post-Tsunami Reconstruction in Aceh
Bribes, extortion, and other illegal payments that truck drivers pay on the road connecting Banda Aceh and the capital of neighboring North Sumatra province, Medan, constitute a major cost to doing business in Aceh and have a substantial impact on tsunami reconstruction.
When military troops and police forces pulled out of Aceh as part of the Helsinki peace agreement, illegal levies at security posts declined steeply. However, illegal payments at weigh stations have risen. Trucks also pay convoy fees in Banda Aceh and ‘facilitation’ fees to criminal organizations in Medan to bring down on-road costs and to provide security services.
During the years of conflict in Aceh, security personnel took advantage of the unrest to exact charges from truck drivers and others traveling on Aceh roads. In areas they controlled, the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) charged similar levies. After martial law was imposed in May 2003, security forces had increased powers and extortion soared.
As Aceh opened up to international scrutiny after the tsunami (with international peace monitors and aid agencies present), security personnel changed the ways in which they collect fees. Increasingly trucks do not stop at security posts but are pulled over at different points on the road, in order to make extortion less visible. Interviews with truck drivers conducted by the World Bank in March 2005 revealed that trucks going from Banda Aceh to Medan were asked to pay bribes at between 70 and 110 different posts during a single trip.
Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency for Aceh and Nias (BRR) and World Bank, Trucking and Illegal Payments in Aceh, April 2006.