Indonesian authorities yesterday launched an investigation after a police force chief admitted an officer wrapped a live snake around a terrified suspect in a bid to force a confession.
Shocking viral footage emerged online showing an alleged pickpocket -- handcuffed and sitting on the floor barefoot -- screaming hysterically as another officer shouts abuse at a police station in restive Papua province.
"How many times have you stolen a mobile phone?" he yells at the unidentified suspected thief, who appears to be cowering in fear.
"Only two times," the suspect says in response.
At one stage, the officer appears to try to shove the snake into the man's mouth, while others are heard laughing in the background during the undated video.
"An officer is now being questioned by Papua police internal affairs division," Papua police spokesman Ahmad Mustofa Kamal told AFP yesterday.
He did not identify the officer or say if others present would be investigated.
Tonny Ananda Swadaya, the police chief in Jayawijaya district, where the incident took place, apologised in a statement Sunday.
But he added that the suspect was not in physical danger from the serpent.
"The snake was tame and not poisonous or dangerous and the incident was their own idea so they could get admission of guilt as quick as possible," Swadaya said in a statement.
"We will work more professionally in the future," he added.
Police did not say what kind of snake was used.
Indonesian security forces have been repeatedly accused of using excessive force and committing rights abuses against Papua's ethnic Melanesian population including extrajudicial killings of activists and peaceful protestors.
Human rights lawyer Veronica Koman said the video confirmed what some jailed Papuan activists have reported in the past.
"They have long known that snakes are being used by police and the military (in interrogations)," she said.
"So they're not surprised" by the video.
Papua, one of Indonesia's poorest region, has seen several spasms of violence over the past year, including in December when at least 16 employees of a state-owned company -- who were building bridges in a major infrastructure push for the impoverished region -- were killed by separatist rebels.