Violence escalates, again . . .
Violence flared again in Indonesia’s Papua province, claiming the lives of four Papuan independence fighters and three Indonesian officers this week, and two members of the Indonesian security forces in preceding weeks. The current shootouts, beginning in February, have caused some 2,000 villagers to flee the area with rebels in the West Papua Liberation Army targeting mining roads, sites, and towns in Indonesia’s easternmost province. In return, the Indonesian military has clamped down even harder, killing an elementary school student in the province during a clash last month.
World’s largest gold mine a target . . .
Rebels have been fighting Jakarta for independence since the 1960s, but clashes have escalated since late February, prompting military chiefs to be “on the highest alert” as independence fighters target Grasberg mine, the world’s largest gold mine, which they see as a symbol of Indonesian rule. The area around the Grasberg mine has suffered outbreaks of violence in recent years, part of a pattern in resource-rich Papua since the time of Dutch colonial rule, with independence fighters vowing to continue fighting until the mine closes.
A long road ahead . . .
The site of these latest clashes is not surprising, as the Grasberg mine’s mammoth stocks of gold and copper have been mined for decades by U.S.-based Freeport-McMoRan, a significant source of both environmental damage in the region and tax income for far-flung Jakarta. In turn, Indigenous Papuans remain among Indonesia’s most impoverished peoples, with international aid programs directed to the region at risk in recent days amid fears of COVID-19. These issues have spurred shootings and ambushes on vehicles travelling on the main supply route to the mine, a 125-km-long road guarded by an estimated 3,000 members of Indonesian security forces. With Jakarta continuing to view this as a security matter while sidelining discussions on Indigenous and natural resource governance, expect this cycle of violence to continue, continuing to pose risks to Canadian companies in the region.
- The New York Times: Villagers Flee to Escape Shootings in Indonesia's Papua
- Radio New Zealand: Employees warned over heightened security risks at Papua mine
- The Star: Four rebels killed in clash in Indonesia's Papua region