Thousands take to Indonesian streets
PIC: AFP

Protests in many Indonesian cities turned violent on Thursday as thousands of enraged students and workers criticized a new law they say will cripple labour rights and harm the environment.

Clashes between rock-throwing demonstrators and riot police broke out near Jakarta's presidential palace as police tried to disperse the protesters, including workers and high school and university students.

President Joko Widodo is visiting Central Kalimantan province and was not in the palace.

Police fired tear gas at the protesters from several high schools and universities as they tried to approach the palace compound, turning roads into a smoke-filled battleground. The protesters fought back, hurling rocks and bottles.

An angry mob burned a traffic police post at an intersection near the palace, while other protesters set fires to tires and fibreglass road barriers.

Similar clashes occurred in large cities all over the country, including Yogyakarta, Medan, Makassar, Manado and Bandung, the capital of West Java province, where police arrested 209 people during two days of violent protests.

Organisers have called for a three-day national strike starting on Tuesday demanding that the government revoke the legislation.

The Job Creation Law approved by Parliament on Monday is expected to substantially change Indonesia's labour system and natural resources management. It amended 79 previous laws and was intended to improve bureaucratic efficiency as part of efforts by Widodo's administration to attract more investment to the country.

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