Indonesia beefs up security amid violent West Papua protests

Clay Curtis
August 24, 2019

Episodes of racism against Papuan students in Surabaya and Malang (East Java province) are the cause of protests that this morning inflamed several cities in Indonesia's easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua.

Sorong, a city of some 220,000 people, was hit by mass protests on Monday while in Manokwari, the capital of West Papua province, chaos broke out with the local parliament building torched and almost reduced to ashes.

Authorities are hunting for more than 250 inmates who had escaped from a prison in Sorong that was torched during the riots.

He said several hundred demonstrators in Fakfak, another city in West Papua, burned a market and destroyed ATMs and shops early Wednesday.

Protesters set a market on fire and threw stones at buildings following a series of violent rallies in the province on Monday over perceived discrimination, police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal said.

The governor said that she had personally called Papua Governor Lukas Enembe to extend her apology for the ill treatment of Papuan students in East Java, which led thousands of Papuans to take to the streets. The crowd began to disperse as riot police fired warning shots.

There were also demonstrations in the town of Fakfak on the western edge of the island, which is divided between the Indonesian province of West Papua and the independent nation of Papua New Guinea.

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Separate footage posted on Twitter of protests in another part of Sorong shows men in military uniform running and yelling "Get the guns, dogs!" in response to protesters throwing rocks.

Indonesian soldiers stand guard during a protest in Timika, Papua province, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019.

The rights group Setara Institute said police and military reinforcements would exacerbate violence and it urged President Joko Widodo to send an envoy to open dialogue with residents there.

Local media and Papuan activists said police in riot gear stormed a dormitory to force out students who allegedly destroyed an Indonesian flag.

A separatist movement has simmered for decades in the resource-rich area of Papua, where there have been frequent complaints of rights abuses by Indonesian security forces.

It is also home to the world's largest gold mine, but many Papuans say they've not shared in the region's vast mineral wealth.

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