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Bali's Gypsy Drivers Sent to Jail

19 Drivers Captured in Sweep of Unlicensed Tourist Vehicle in Bali Get Jail Time.

(5/7/2011) 19 drivers of unlicensed tourist vehicles were brought before the Tabanan District Court in Bali on Wednesday, May 5, 2010. Charged with carrying tourist visitors in vehicles not licensed for tourism transport, the drivers all chose imprisonment when faced with the choice of 3 days in jail or a fine of Rp. 1 million (US$111).

As reported by the Bali Post, the men charged with the violation, faced a possible maximum penalty of 5 years in prison but were granted leniency by the court .

The men, mostly from Bali's capital of Denpasar, were unified in choosing a jail term over the payment of a fine. One of the men, Sumerta, challenged the presiding judge, saying: "This punishment is too severe, Sir, our income does not equal that in three days of work.

Saying the punishment was in accordance with the law, the judge refused to alter the sentence handed down to all the 19 men.

Another driver, Agus, said that in other areas of Bali the fines when they were caught carrying tourists in their unlicensed vehicles was less. Said Agus: "Usually it's only Rp. 60,000 - Rp. 75,000 (US$6.60 -US$8.30). Now it's so expensive. We are unable to pay, we're only laborers."

Agus also complained that the process to register a vehicle for tourism transport was very complicated.

In addition to the punishment meted out to the 19 drivers the judge also gave a fine of Rp. 200,000 (US$$22) to another driver who was caught in a vehicle for which the tourism transport license had expired. This driver also complained the penalty as too harsh, saying he only earns Rp. 50,000 per day.

Private Cars for Tourism Use

The drivers brought to court were caught carrying tourists without properly licensed vehicles in the area of Lake Beratan, Tanaban, at police roadblock conducted by provincial enforcement officers on April 25, 2011.

The prosecutions are part of a crackdown on illegal taxi operations promised by Bali authorities.

Warning to Tourist Visitors

Bali visitors should exercise caution in the current crackdown on unlicensed taxis, avoiding the rental of cars and drivers that often congregate just outside the main gates of Bali hotels. All vehicles used to carry tourists must hold a "tourism transport permit" (izin pariwisata).  As the case in Tabanan demonstrates, drivers carrying tourists in unlicensed cars are subject to arrest and their passengers may find themselves stranded, seeking replacement transportation on the side of a Bali roadway or at local police precinct there their driver and his vehicle are otherwise occupied.

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