Started December 2012, last updated July 2014        

Question of the Month:


EXPAT SPOUSE LAW—Does it exist?

An ongoing enquiry...


Secrets of Deincarnation in Bali

An American who falls in love with and marries a beautiful Balinese girl is ultimately forced to flee the Island of the Gods with his children ahead of plans for murder.


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Law in Indonesia

How to unravel the enigma of law in Indonesia?

Business and legal advisors seem to offer two contradictory views:

Amazing opportunities await investors in a booming Indonesian economy, according to many law and business advisories,


Indonesia’s ratings for corruption in the legal system are abysmal, and horror stories of business and personal disasters abound.

Indonesia's Economic Boom Continues

Indonesia is now one of Asia Pacific’s most vibrant democracies that has maintained political stability and emerged as a confident middle-income country. Indonesia Outlook - The World Bank, December 2012

Indonesia is now an increasingly competitive and secure place in which to invest... A sense of renewal and security has returned to the country. Okusi Associates, Opportunities

Demand for Bali properties has Increased dramatically in recent years. Primarily driven by Indonesians and Foreigners... Bali Property Investments appeared to be secure. Decide now.... [We give] you the right advice to efficiently negotiate your land acquisition and government regulations to make your property investment all the more secure. Please let us show you the exciting opportunities in Bali Island.

Indonesia Rated Among World's Most Corrupt Countries

Corruption continues to undermine the economy, distribution of resources, and the public administration in Indonesia. All available data and country reports indicate that corruption remains widespread...[We] consider corruption as the most severe problem affecting the business environment in Indonesia. Causes of Corruption in Indonesia - Transparency International, August 2012

“I no longer know what to say about corruption and government bureaucracy. [It] is indeed endemic, deeply entrenched in the entire judicial process in Indonesia. The problem is not about the substance but more about the law enforcers and the legal culture." Strategic Review, 2012

The law mafia is targeting hotels in Bali, plotting to bankrupt hotels which are still healthy, including Aston Resort and Spa, Tanjung Benoa, Kuta to a loss of billions of dollars., July 2012


So how to decide the truth?



Six Blind Men...

Remember the tale of the six blind men who went to see the elephant? When they discussed it later, each described it differently. No one was actually wrong, but somehow the parts did not add up to the whole.

As in that tale, neither view of Indonesia as limitless boom or total disaster is wrong, but both are incomplete. This website is a tool to help assemble the pieces.


An Overview...

Most of the world agrees that personal freedom, business security, economic growth, and social progress must be founded on reliable and transparent law, but it is not clear that Indonesia has such a system. Indonesia’s economy is booming, but what lies behind it? Are individual rights respected and your family secure? Will investors be free to enjoy their rewards? Is the nation on a path to a stable civil society? We need to understand the risks.

This website presents a broad practical survey of Indonesian law, drawn from extensive expert information and a wide variety of sources. It is intended for both foreign and Indonesian non-professionals.

In brief, Indonesia Law Online concludes that:

  • The resemblance of Indonesian legal institutions to those of other nations–including legislatures, law codes, lawyers, courts, police, and prosecutors–can cause confusion. In some cases, the origin, purpose, or function of these institutions is entirely different than one might assume from their superficial appearances.
  • Written law as found in codes and regulations–what Indonesia Law Online calls Formal Law–may not describe real-world application of law. Indonesian laws are based on multiple and sometimes incompatible heritages, resulting in statutes which can be vague, contradictory, or incomplete.
  • The actual implementation of law–or Applied Law–depends on the actions of lawyers, judges, police, and other law professionals. Their actions can be at odds to the laws as written.
  • Regardless of written statutes or usual implementations, any particular case–Your Law–can take its own trajectory. Here is where the famous problem of Indonesian corruption comes in. Indonesia Law Online points out that the impact of corruption is not simply an inconvenience as implied by some Indonesian law and business advisories, but potentially a complete loss of family, security, property, or human rights despite fully documented guarantees of those rights.
  • Corruption reaches its most complete expression in the actions of the Mafia Hukum, or Law Mafia, the Indonesian term for the blocks of lawyers, judges, police, and other law professionals who lock up practical access to law in many jurisdictions.
  • Yet the idea that corruption and dysfunction in the legal system reflects some underlying defect of morality in the Indonesian people is untrue: Indonesian legal institutions were imposed on the public by military force though centuries of occupation by colonizers and dictators with the distinct purpose of enabling a powerful elite to manipulate law to their own advantage. In that sense, we can say that the remnants of that system still work perfectly today.
  • The great majority of Indonesians, including many within the law institutions, are fighting for law reform and the end of corruption. But at present, problems are still severe and the effectiveness of many reform commissions is doubtful.
  • As a result, representations of law solutions and investment opportunities by some law and business advisories are more in the nature of wishful thinking–aspirations for law, not Indonesian reality. For investors jumping on board the boom, or expatriates thrilled by their Last Paradise, Indonesian law deserves a more careful look.


Complexity and corruption...

A noted Indonesia scholar calls Indonesia’s legal system “complex and unusual,” which would make law in Indonesia difficult to navigate even without the problems of corruption. Corruption makes it far worse.

Both Indonesians and expatriates can be confused when they expect Indonesian law to function like law in other countries. Superficially, the laws, the lawyers, the police, and the courts are all there, but mistaking appearance for reality can lead to errors.

Because of this complexity and corruption, there is, unfortunately, no short-cut, and the consequences of a mistake can be disastrous. Waiting until you are in the midst of a problem can be too late.

On the most personal level, when documenting your marriage or the parentage of your children, for example, there is no legal process which can guarantee that your family is not drawn into hopeless conflict.

For investors, “corruption as the most severe problem affecting the business environment in Indonesia” does NOT refer to the possible inconvenience of paying a bribe for a business license or land document; the downside is far more severe and could involve complete loss of your business or property.

And these problems don’t only affect us individually. The social causes for which so many Indonesians and non-Indonesians alike struggle—democracy, freedom of the press, protection of the environment, women’s health, children’s welfare, and more—are all pointless, with hard-won principles easily aborted precisely when they are most needed, without secure rule of law.

Indonesia Law Online will systematically explore Indonesian law, from the basics which most people assume—probably erroneously—they already understand, to the application of Indonesian law in some surprising on-going cases.


Why should you care?...

No one should take the law for granted or rely only on the advice of law and business advisories without some independent understanding. Just as with health care, clients need to assume responsibilities of their own; you need to work together with a professional as a partner.


Sources, and the whole elephant problem...

The information gathered together here at Indonesia Law Online is not original. But as far as we know, no other site or other resource has assembled such a wide variety of material—including academic articles, news reports, and case histories—to present a comprehensive overview accessible to the average reader.

With this overview we are able to draw conclusions which, although obvious when seen as a whole, are confusing when examined on their own.

So because this is a whole elephant problem, we can't recommend jumping around this site to pick up useful bits—you will end up with a snake, a spear, and a rope. You really need to read at least Part I. The Law and Part II. Institutions beginning to end. Sorry.


If you already have a problem...

For anyone already experiencing a law problem, we also intend Indonesia Law Online as a practical resource. We will gather facts of law both as written and as practiced, reviews of law firms, and referrals

This site will not offer specifics—at least at this stage of development— of which documents to take to which governmental offices; dozens of other websites and forums already contain this information (although many disagree with one another.) Rather we aim to provide an overview of Indonesian law as a functional—or often dysfunctional—system.



Why Indonesia Law Online?

This website was born after more than seven years of direct practical experience in a series of cases detailed at

As a result of the Uluwatu cases, I wrote the book Eleven Demons - Secrets of Deincarnation in Bali.

From a review in TEMPO—Indonesia's leading news magazine:

Don't even think about signing any contract or agreement, entering into any kind of business partnership, starting any legal action, or above all proposing to a Balinese woman without first reading Eleven Demons from cover to cover. Disguised behind a story of how love can go horribly wrong, this book is both a compulsively good read and an essential manual on how to live, love, and conduct business as a foreigner in Bali... (TEMPO English, No. 01/13, August 28, 2012)

The Uluwatu cases still continue in Bali, Jakarta, and California. We hope with Indonesia Law Online to help others who may find themselves facing similar problems.

         Next > is not a qualified Indonesian law firm. All information or comment on these pages is expressed purely as the author's opinion, and is not responsible for such opinion being taken as subsitute for qualified legal advice. Readers should seek services of qualified law offices for their individual cases.