Indonesia anti-drugs chief calls for tougher Philippine-style war against dealers

September 7, 2016 1:59 AM EDT

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By Kanupriya Kapoor

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Inspired by the Philippines "war on drugs", Indonesia's anti-narcotics chief plans to aggressively ramp up the country's fight against drugs by bolstering its police force with more personnel and heavy weaponry.

The Southeast Asian neighbors have both declared a "war on drugs" with Indonesia stepping up executions of drug convicts, while the Philippines has launched a brutal crackdown in which hundreds of alleged drug dealers have been killed within months.

Leaders of the two countries will meet later this week in Jakarta and one of the main topics of discussion will likely be ways to wipe out the region's drug trade.

Budi Waseso, chief of Indonesia's national anti-narcotics agency (BNN), said late on Tuesday that the agency was in the process of adding weapons, investigators, technology, and sniffer dogs to its arsenal as it steps up law enforcement efforts in one of the region's biggest narcotics markets.

When asked if Indonesia can be as aggressive as the Philippines in fighting drugs, Waseso said: "Yes I believe so. It can happen because (the drugs problem) in Indonesia is as bad as in the Philippines".

"The life of a dealer is meaningless because (he) carries out mass murder. How can we respect that?," he added.

However, a BNN spokesman said Indonesia would not be as aggressive as its neighbor. "Our punishments have to be in accordance with our law and with national and international standards," said spokesman Slamet Pribadi.

Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June, 2,400 people have been killed in his "war on drugs". About 900 died in police operations and the rest authorities say were "deaths under investigation", a term human rights activists say is a euphemism for vigilante and extrajudicial killings.

The bloody campaign has drawn condemnation from organizations like the United Nations, which calls the killings unlawful.

But Duterte has refused to back down, promising that "plenty will be killed" before achieving his goal of a drugs-free country.

(Editing by Randy Fabi and Michael Perry)

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