Opium trading in Bali


Did you know there was opium trading in Bali. No I’m not talking about Seminyak on a saturday night, I mean back in colonial times, where the ‘damn locals’ were merely a tool, for pompous Europeans to use and discard.

The British were among the biggest merchants on the planet, turning Hong Kong Island into the 19th Century equivelent of a crack house. Here in Bali, its was the Dutch who pioneered the addiction business.

Opium was traditionally traded in Bali by the Bugis from Sulawesi and the Chinese. They paid a duty to the local raja’s, who ruled each district in Bali. Opium was sold in local Balinese markets, until the Dutch decided to take control, forcing people to buy from them.

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Local Balinese people were furious and rioted in Klungkung (‘gimme my smack Jack!!!’) on April 1st, 1908. But they were the April Fools, because the Dutch had ample support. On April 28th 1908, the Balinese royal court in Klungkung, commited a ritual puputan (group suicide), when faced with certain defeat. I like their spirit, but personally would of talked to the Chinese. If they were smart enough to get hold of opium, they sure as hell could get hold of some firearms, and its a different ballgame. Anyway, who am I to talk? The Balinese dewa agung, stabbed the ground with his royal kris (wiggley knife), thinking the ground would open up and swallow the Dutch. Nothing happened (you can imagine the look on his face!), and the coincidence of beached whales, comet sightings and a banyan tree sporting strange flowers, convinced him it was time to go to Option #2 in the playbook (suicide). That day 200 members of the royal court, stabbed each other to death.

Klungkung’s demise gave the raja of neighboring Bangli no real choice. His was the last remaining regency on Bali, not under Dutch control. Fearing attack, he agreed that Bangli should become a Dutch Protectorate in January 1909. At that time Bali was completely in the control of the Dutch. How much opium came into play later, who knows. The Dutch probably used it as a control mechanism for the masses.


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