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'Oplosan' deaths threaten to rekindle Indonesia's alcohol debate

Moonshine risks stir social division ahead of elections

Officers at a Jakarta police station prepare evidence during an April 11 news conference on the arrest of suspects linked to the production and sale of bootleg alcohol.   © Reuters

JAKARTA -- When news broke in early April about an increase in deaths from drinking bootleg alcohol in Indonesia, it was initially dismissed as unimportant. The problem had been ongoing for years, with those who could not afford legal alcohol often turning to moonshine, known locally as "oplosan."

But the full scale of the problem has become clear since the start of the year. More than 100 people have died and dozens more have ended up critically ill in hospital. With pictures emerging of grieving family members, it has quickly became a topic everyone is talking about.

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