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Southeast Asia, explained

Indonesia fears drugs have become part of airline pilots' "lifestyle"

Lion Air pilot high on meth just three hours before scheduled domestic route
Lion air drugs 02 09 2012Enlarge
Indonesia's Lion Air is enmeshed in scandal after multiple pilots were caught with drugs. (Screengrab)

A wave of pilots caught with meth in Indonesia has brought the government's drug czar to a terrifying conclusion: drugs have become part of Indonesian pilots' "lifestyle."

The most recent of several incidents involved a pilot with domestic carrier Lion Air discovered high on methamphetamine just three hours before a 6:15 a.m. flight, the Jakarta Post reports.

That arrest and others have the National Narcotics Agency's chief declaring that a "large number" of pilots rely on drugs.

It gets worse. “There is a possibility that airline crews are linked to drug networks,” the chief told the Post.

Given Indonesia's geography -- the archipelago nation is a long arc of different islands -- flying is often the only convenient means of crisscrossing the country. The government is now scrambling to up drug screenings and assure the public that flying is safe.

But there's still no assurance that pilots caught with drugs will be permanently barred from the cockpit. Though Indonesia's punishment for drug trafficking is as tough as it gets -- the death penalty -- the Indonesian Pilots Federation is arguing that pilots busted with drugs should be able to renew their licenses after rehab, according to the Jakarta Globe.

Drug-abusing pilots, the federation's head told the Globe, are "victims who need to be rehabilitated."

http://www.globalpost.com/globalpost-blogs/southeast-asia/indonesia-pilots-drugs