News / Asia

Rights Group Says 300 Arrested at Papua Rally

Papuanese who attended the Third Papuan People Congress climb a fence after police and troops dispersed the crowd at the event in Abepura in Indonesia's Papua province, October 19, 2011.
Papuanese who attended the Third Papuan People Congress climb a fence after police and troops dispersed the crowd at the event in Abepura in Indonesia's Papua province, October 19, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
Kate Lamb

In Indonesia's Papua province, Human Rights Watch says police arrested more than 300 protesters at a political rally where separatists declared independence from Indonesian rule on Wednesday. Demonstrators also called for the closure of the local Freeport McMoran gold and copper mine, where operations have been halted by occasionally violent labor strikes.  Locals in Papua province have long felt marginalized.

The unrest in Jayapura on Wednesday began when Indonesian soldiers fired warning shots into the air as high-profile West Papuan leaders declared their independence from Indonesia.  Indonesian military forces beat protestors with rattan canes and batons outside the planned congress attended by 5,000 people.

Protestors at the congress also raised the controversial Morning Star Flag, a symbol of West Papuan Independence, and an act that carries lengthy jail terms.

Papua police announced Thursday that there were two fatalities from the independence rally, and that five suspects implicated in the riot, including some high profile Papuan independence leaders, have been charged with treason and possession of weapons.

Demonstrators also aired grievances about labor conditions at Papua's Freeport mine, which was temporarily closed after ongoing strikes and security concerns this week.

But Jakarta-based risk analyst Todd Elliot says there is no direct link between the labor movement and calls for independence in West Papua.

"I don't think there is a direct relationship between the congress and the labor problems at Freeport," said Elliot.  "But I do I think they are both fueled by some underlying currents of native Papuans feeling marginalized and not treated fairly."

Papuan activist Dorus Wakum says that for many native Papuans, the government and Freeport have become synonymous with human rights abuses and growing inequality.

"Why has the congress declared that Freeport be closed? Because they see that Freeport don't give benefit[s to] the Papuan people. So it's a problem," said Wakum.

Yohannes Sulamain is a lecturer at the Indonesia National Defense University in Jakarta. He says the problems stem from a lack of education and corruption that siphons off much of the government budget, and stops Papuans from securing well-paid jobs at Freeport.

"There is huge corruption in the ministry of education," said Sulamain.  "It makes the situation worse and worse. So I cannot really blame the Papuans for saying they are kind of pissed off with Freeport and the government, because they don't see the government do anything for them, they don't see them care enough about the locals."

Wednesday's Papuan congress was the third of its kind. The last one was held more than a decade ago.

West Papua is one of the poorest regions in Indonesia, but the province also has a wealth of natural resources.  Separatists have called for independence from Indonesia for decades and while the province has been granted special autonomy, West Papua remains a sensitive issue.

The central government in Jakarta has yet to make a statement about the congress, a response that analyst Todd Elliot says is characteristic of the current government's approach to Papua.

"I think what is noticeable is the lack of response from the Indonesian government," added Elliot.  "There has been a noticeable lack of attention to Papua in the current administration and the previous Yudhoyono administration despite calls from a number of people, including some prominent current and former officials and ministers urging for peaceful dialogue and resolution to the problems in Papua. Things happen and you don't hear anything from the state palace or anyone."

The five suspects charged with treason and possession of weapons face between six and 20 years in prison.

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs