Thousands hit the streets to mark May Day in Indonesia

Jakarta – Thousands of workers marched through the streets of several Indonesian cities on Sunday to mark International Labour Day, demanding the government improve the welfare of the workers.

In the capital Jakarta, up to 14,000 police officers were deployed to safeguard thousands of demonstrators from several labour organizations, Jakarta city police chief Sutarman said.

Riot police backed by water cannons stood guard outside the Presidential Palace, which had barbed wire strung across its main gates, witnesses said.

At the capital’s main roundabout, more than 3,000 workers marched to the palace, causing heavy traffic jams on major streets.

They carried banners demanding improved wages, and leaders said the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had failed to improve workers’ welfare.

During a visit to factories in Bogor, south of Jakarta, to mark the May day, Yudhoyono urged the owners to avoid layoffs despite facing a monetary crisis.

The government has also been criticised for not doing enough to protect Indonesian workers abroad. Emigre workers have often been exploited and some even murdered by their foreign employers.

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