Bali teen drug arrest

Since I’ve posted the Bali entry on the Beach Blog, I’ve been asked by several people to give my opinion on the current issue concerning a 14 year old Australian boy who was arrested for marijuana purchase in Bali. I don’t know if anyone is following this story outside of Australia. The gist of the story appears to be that a 14 year old was arrested after buying 6 grams of marijuana while on vacation with his parents in Bali.

First, let me say there are lots of rumors and I don’t know what is true—I’ve heard the boy already had a drug problem, whatever that means, that he was set up to be caught, that his parents are wealthy and this is a scam to get money by I don’t know by whom. I can’t comment on any of that. I can only comment that if this were my child, I would be distraught. I would also be very sure to carefully consider taking teens to Bali or anywhere they might be exposed to marijuana that is cheap and all over the place and let there be no doubt, that happens in Bali. My policy has always been not to take vulnerable teens to any place where they could be arrested, even if innocent, and there is little that can be done to get them out of jail. I cannot emphasize that enough. Indonesia and several other Asian countries clearly state on entry at customs “Death Penalty to Drug Traffickers” and they have executed foreigners. I also understand that many teens believe nothing can happen to them—it’s normal for them to think that way and one of the reasons they are devastated when something does happen, whatever it might be.

I’ve also heard criticism of the parents allowing a 14 year old to wander around Kuta alone; I cannot imagine being able to police a teen that age all the time and I don’t blame them for that at all.

I don’t think a teen that age belongs in jail; I think and hope he has been frightened sufficiently after a week in jail. I realize that the decision rests with the Indonesian government and law courts despite any opinions expressed in Australia or anywhere else. This should be another lesson that the laws in another country must be obeyed, that a tourist is within their jurisdiction and consular officials may not be able to do very much under those circumstances. Irrespective, I still hope this kid is released and sent back to Australia. As a parent, I can’t wish for any other ending to what must be a nightmare for his family. That doesn’t mean people should not go to Bali but like anywhere in the world, they should be aware they are not above the law and it will be enforced.

6 comments

  1. Rohini says:

    Elle,
    I can’t agree with you more, especially about following the rules and laws and to some extent the mores of any country – whether as a tourist, long-term or other temporary resident. Living as I do, as a foreigner here in Bahrain, I am particularly aware of differences in the laws and perception of “fairness” of my “home country”. However, it is always wise remember that one is a guest and behave accordingly.
    Rohini

  2. elledruskin says:

    Rohini,
    Well said. We always need to be aware of the implications of any law and not expect to see everything through a lens of our home country. That might not seem “fair” but it is the law and we are bound to adhere to those laws as a guest in any country. Ultimately, there is only so much the consular staff can do to help. In this case, I would imagine it will be resolved soon since even the PM is involved.

  3. InfoSeeker says:

    Many questions come to mind after reading this article. Where were his parents when this happened? Did he know about the consequences of possessing marijuana in Indonesia? What kind of help is he getting from the Australian Embassy? What kind of legal services are available to him in Indonesia? I currently live in Thailand and know that ignorance of marijuana laws in Thailand leads to the arrest of many foreign tourists. However, I haven’t heard of anyone arrested in Thailand so young with this amount of cannabis and being tried as an adult. It is important to know the laws of a country before visiting, no matter what age you are. This boy probably thought that marijuana was legal in Indonesia or that he could get away with possession with minor penalties. Travelers must understand that laws change from country to country, and the notion of due process doesn’t exist worldwide.

  4. elledruskin says:

    Yes, a lot of questions come to mind. I don’t have the answers and there’s a lot of speculation going on here. This incident reinforces the importance of understanding the implication of laws in other countries and if traveling with teens, making sure they know and understand the consequences since you cannot be with a teen every second of the day. Adults cannot assume teens know or understand, their judgment making ability still is not mature so it has to be made very clear.

  5. I know what you mean about teens not believing anything could happen to them. As a teacher, I see their reckless behavior all the time. What probably should happen to this teen is a severe talking to and warning. He also should receive counseling when he arrives home. Policing a teen is hard, and you’re right. No way could parents watch the kid all the time. If they want to break rules, they will find ways to do it. If they have to climb out a window, they will. I hope this is resolved well.

  6. elledruskin says:

    Risk taking is part of normal development; the challenge is to allow them to take risks, but controlled risks where they don’t get hurt or in trouble. No parent can watch a teen all the time and shouldn’t–it just makes them more devious. We just have to hope this is resolved soon and whatever the consequences–counseling, etc. well, he’s already had some consequences that he is not likely to forget.

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