Thousands involved in deadly protests . . .
Police have fired tear gas and protesters have set buildings ablaze in Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost province, as two weeks of deadly protests over minority rights and increased autonomy continue to escalate. Anti-discrimination protests have spread since August 17, when security forces used tear gas and made racist slurs against Papuan students accused of desecrating Indonesia’s flag on the country’s independence day. Over 1,000 national police fanned into the region’s capital today to counter the thousands of protesters. Both independence leaders and external observers have called on the United Nations to act.
Rocks vs internet blockages . . .
Protesters threw rocks at security forces in Jayapura, the capital and biggest city in Papua province, home to almost 500,000 people. Indonesia’s security minister Wiranto said he instructed security forces in Papua not to take repressive measures, but as recently as Wednesday, at least one Indonesian soldier and two civilians have been killed. Indonesia maintains a significant police and military presence in the volatile province, and amid the tensions state energy firm Pertamina shut several gas stations in Jayapura. Verifying news from Papua and West Papua has been made difficult by an internet shutdown, with many parts of the mountainous region hard to access by international media. Human rights lawyers in Indonesia have written an urgent appeal to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression. “It definitely has breached international law,” said one Jakarta-based lawyer, and a co-author of the UN appeal.
Papua protests mirror worrying regional trend . . .
The situation in Papua echoes a number of escalating civil conflicts across the region to which international organizations have struggled to respond, including in: Assam, Kashmir, Rakhine State in Myanmar, southern Thailand, and Hong Kong. Long-simmering people versus state problems accentuated by the legacies of colonial divisions have crashed headlong into increasingly centralized and securitized government responses. As in many of these conflicts, the Indonesian government frames its actions as quelling violent separatists, while local protesters mainly frame their actions in terms of political autonomy and concerns over state policies that privilege predominantly Muslim Indonesians in a resource-rich, predominantly Christian and Indigenous Papuan state.
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Papuan protesters torch buildings, cars in Jayapura as unrest continues
- The Guardian: Up to seven dead in West Papua as protest turns violent
- CBC: Protesters in Indonesia's Papua province burn local government building