Rallies in Indonesia over fuel price hikes

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Thousands of people have rallied in Indonesia's biggest cities, seeking to pile pressure on the government to reverse its first subsidised fuel price hike in eight years amid soaring inflation.

Under pressure to control a ballooning energy subsidy budget, President Joko Widodo on Saturday said he had little choice but to hike subsidised fuel prices by about 30 per cent, an unpopular move in the country of 270 million people.

Oil prices are about 32 per cent higher than a year ago.

By midday on Tuesday, protests were underway in and around the capital Jakarta and in the cities of Surabaya, Makassar, Kendari, Aceh, and Yogyakarta, among a series of demonstrations led by students and labour unions that police say could draw tens of thousands of people this week.

Thousands of police were deployed across Jakarta, many guarding petrol stations, fearing those could become targets of mounting anger over a price hike that unions say will hurt workers and the urban poor the most.

"Workers are really, really suffering right now," said Abdul Aris, a union official.

"The price shouldn't have been raised," he said, vowing to keep fighting until the government gives way.

Tuesday's protests started peacefully, with no early reports of violence or arrests.

Thousands gathered in Jakarta wearing red or orange bandanas, marching and chanting slogans denouncing the government move and calling for an increase in the minimum wage.

Subsidised fuel is a sensitive issue in Southeast Asia's biggest economy, but the government has sought to soften the blow through compensation measures, including direct cash transfers.