Building U.S.-Indonesia Mutual Understanding Since 1994

The Indonesian Defence Forces and Disaster Relief: Potential Pitfalls and Challenges

By Evan A. Laksmana,

RSIS Commentaries,

The triple disaster that struck Indonesia in recent months has led to the deployment of the Indonesian Defence Forces (TNI) to provide disaster relief. What are the potential pitfalls and challenges of increasing the military’s role in disaster relief and management?


FOLLOWING the recent “triple disaster” in Indonesia — the major flooding in Papua, the tsunami in Mentawai islands, and the volcanic eruption in Central Java — the Indonesian Defence Forces (TNI) has been deployed to provide search and rescue assistance and other emergency relief. This involved several battalion-sized units from the Army Strategic Reserve Command, Marines, Air Force Special Forces, and others. This is but a recent example of the TNI’s “traditional” role of being deployed in nearly every large-scale disaster Indonesia has seen. Such a role is a by-product of their operational preparedness and wide-ranging territorial structure across the country — making them a natural first responder.

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Evan A. Laksmana is a researcher with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Jakarta, and an adjunct lecturer at the Indonesian Defence University. He was until recently a Visiting Associate Fellow with the Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.