Police and demonstrators clash in the capital Jakarta on the third day of protests against a polarising new bill that critics say will harm labour rights and environment.

Activists take part in a demonstration on the last day of a three-day nationwide strike against a new law which critics say favour investors, outside the provincial parliament building in Banda Aceh on October 8, 2020.
Activists take part in a demonstration on the last day of a three-day nationwide strike against a new law which critics say favour investors, outside the provincial parliament building in Banda Aceh on October 8, 2020. (AFP)

Hundreds of people have been arrested in Jakarta as tens of thousands protested across Indonesia for the third consecutive day against a controversial new law that critics say will harm labour rights and the environment.

Thousands of security personnel were deployed on Thursday to block access to the capital and prevent workers and students from demonstrating in front of the presidential palace and parliament.

"We ask that the law be repealed immediately," Maulana Syarif, 45, who has worked at Astra Honda motors for 25 years, said in capital Jakarta.

"This is our struggle for our children and grandchildren and our future generations ... If it's like this our well-being will decrease, and we will lack job certainty."

In the past two days, 800 people have been detained in the capital, Jakarta police spokesperson Yusri Yunus said.

"We are now questioning them," Yunus said, adding the situation in Jakarta was "under control."

At least two students that joined the demonstrations have been hospitalised with head injuries, and six police officers injured.

"I feel a responsibility to the Indonesian people," said another demonstrator, IT student Arawinda Kartika, as she marched toward the palace. 

"I feel sorry for labourers working day and night without sufficient wages or power."

READ MORE: Thousands protest new Indonesian law

New bill dubbed 'catastrophic'

The government hopes a new bill – which aims to cut red tape by amending dozens of existing laws covering taxation, labour and environment regulations – will attract foreign investment.

But labour activists and green groups have slammed the legislation, with Amnesty International saying it was "catastrophic" for workers.

Police banned Thursday's demonstrations citing coronavirus concerns, but workers and students marched anyway in dozens of cities across the archipelago.

Violent protests have taken place in several other cities this week, including Lampung and Bandung.

TV channels showed demonstrations, including in remote areas such as North Maluku, where people carried coffins and held mock funerals to mark the "death" of parliament.

Black smoke rose across the capital on Thursday afternoon as protesters burned public transport facilities and damaged police posts, and low-level clashes between police and demonstrators continued. 

The operator of Jakarta's MRT rail network said underground stations had been closed.

READ MORE: Indonesia arrests more than 500 after fresh protests

Parliament website hacked

Indonesians also expressed their anger online with hackers blocking access to parliament's website and changing its name to the "Council of Traitors."

They also created an account on the Indonesia e-commerce platform Tokopedia and put parliament "on sale" for a pittance, according to media reports.

The government of President Joko Widodo has championed the flagship legislation as key to boosting Indonesia's ailing economy by streamlining regulations, cutting red tape and attracting more foreign direct investment.

Bahlil Lahadalia, the head of Indonesia's Investment Coordinating Board, appealed to young people to trust the government's intent for the law, which is to create jobs.

"Please be assured this law is to create jobs for the unemployed Indonesian people," he said. 

READ MORE: Workers globally lost trillions in wages due to pandemic: UN

Source: TRTWorld and agencies