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West Papua Report
September 2007

This is the 40th in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This reporting series is produced by the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. The West Papua Advocacy Team is a non-profit organization. 
Indonesian Military Resume Operations Displacing and Endangering Papuan Civilians
The Indonesian military (TNI) has resumed operations in the Yamo area of the Papuan Central Highlands.  These operations repeat military sweeps in the same area in 2004-2006, which forced several thousands from their homes and led to the death of scores of civilians.  The TNI has undertaken months-long sweep operations periodically in West Papua purportedly to suppress an armed opposition that U.S. State Department reporting suggests number less than 200 armed personnel. 
In such operations, the authorities typically prohibit humanitarian assistance to those displaced.  TNI forces in the past have destroyed homes, churches and gardens, which are essential to the life of Papuans in these rural areas.  The TNI also usually prohibits civilians from tending their gardens and animals, and disrupts inter-village commerce, creating severe hardships for the local people.
A report by the Institute for Papuan Advocacy & Human Rights on the latest operations follows:

Indonesian Military Operation in Jamo Valley causes starvation and displacement.

Reports from Human Rights workers confirm that the Indonesian military (TNI) and police launched a new military offensive in the Jamo (also spelt Yamo) Valley in the remote Puncak Jaya region of West Papua, in the first week of August 2007.  These sources said that a mother and two children died from starvation when they were hiding in the forest after fleeing the military operations.
Local people are reported to have been beaten by Indonesian security forces and many people have fled to the surrounding forests and mountains to hide.
Human rights workers say that the affected area includes the villages of Wundu and Propalo.   The only way in and out of this rugged area is by walking or light aircraft or helicopter.
The troops involved in the operation were reported to be from TNI Battalion 756 in Wamena and Battalion 752 Nabire and the paramilitary Mobile Police Brigade (Brimob) from Jayapura.
One source said that the military operations began when the TNI and police came from Mulia to surround a hideout of the OPM/TPN guerrilla leader Goliat Tabuni. It was reported that this military operation was unsuccessful.
Another report said that the entire population of young people (men and women) in some villages had fled into the forests and mountains in fear of reprisals from the Indonesian security forces.  The Indonesian security forces are said to have accused the villagers of supporting Goliat Tabuni and the OPM/TPN guerrillas.  This source also said that only young children and old people are left in Wundu and Propalo villages and that they are traumatized.
"The security forces surrounded our church, forced us out of church and beat us. They destroyed our houses, pigs, and food gardens. We villagers become the victims, caught between the TPN/OPM on one side and the Indonesian military on the other. That is why people have fled their villages" said a source from the area who did not want to be named.
The Institute for Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights (IPAHR) is deeply concerned about the welfare and security of local people in the Jamo valley in Puncak Jaya.
"Over the past year the people in this region have been repeatedly been displaced from their homes by military operations.  The repeated military offensives and ongoing occupation of this region by the Indonesian security forces makes the lives of the people very difficult and means that people have had to flee their homes, pigs and food gardens and live from the little they can find in the mountain forests," said Paula Makabory representing Institute for Papuan Advocacy & Human Rights.
"The capacity of local human rights and church workers to assist is also severely constrained by the Indonesian security forces and the Goliat Tabuni's OPM/TPN group."
"The Indonesian Government ban on international media & humanitarian organisations in West Papua means that the international community cannot assess of the situation or provide humanitarian assistance in the Jamo valley."
For more information contact: Matthew Jamieson, Institute for Papuan Advocacy & Human Rights (
Growing Concern over Political Killings in Papua
International human rights organizations and journalists report a spike in political killings in West Papua in recent weeks.  The modus operandi and identity of those targeted strongly suggest Indonesian security forces are resorting to Soeharto-era tactics to intimidate Papuan human rights defenders and more generally terrorize Papuan civilians. An August Human Rights Watch report noted killings of Papuans in recent years have been particularly common in West Papua's central highlands.  Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the Institute for Papuan Advocacy & Human Rights (IPAHR), Matthew Jamieson, noted other recent killings.  "In the past two months there has been increased threats to human rights defenders."  Jamieson noted a report of the killing by police of three public servants in the Star Mountains region, shootings of Papuans by military personnel in Jayapura and the case of the severe torture of a man by the military near Tanah Merah."  He also cited reports of torture of Papuan activists at the hands of security forces.
Tom Hyland, writing in the Australian "Sunday Age" (August 26) noted that Indonesian security forces were suspected in a "steady trickle of Papuan killings."  Two August killings in Nabire are part of the pattern.  In August, Matius Bunai and Ones Keiya were found in the streets, badly beaten and cut.  Bunai was found dead and Keiya died shortly after being discovered bleeding in the street. Both had smashed foreheads. Bunai was active in the Kingmi church, which itself has been the target of growing pressure by security forces (see August and July WPAT reports).  Keiya was also a Kingmi church member and like Bunai, a member of the Mee tribe.
Hyland notes that the killings were described as "mysterious," a code for security force killings.  As Hyland explains, the use of the term "mysterious," echoes its use to refer to similar killings two decades ago by the Indonesian military and police.  In the mid-1980's, especially in Java, Soeharto security forces killed thousands whom the regime claimed to be criminal suspects.  Soeharto himself later described the deliberately authorized campaign as "shock therapy."  The current use of state terror in West Papua has been accompanied by exceptionally harsh public rhetoric by senior military and other officials who pledge to "crush" dissidents and who boast that they are not afraid of human rights charges.  (See West Papua Report for August.)

The Soeharto regime, employing the infamous Indonesian special forces, Kopassus, similarly sought to intimidate its political opponents in 1997-98, kidnapping, torturing and murdering young dissidents especially in Sumatra and Java. Such tactics were also used against Timorese dissidents for decades and especially in 1999.  Indonesian security elements kidnapped, tortured and murdered Acehenese dissidents as recently as 2004. Melbourne academic and Papuan expert Richard Chauvel, characterizes the anti-Papuan killings as "systemic and strategic."  He explains to Hyland that the killings are "systemic in the sense that it is an integral part of how the security forces interact with many sections of Papuan society,and strategic insofar as it is intended "to create a certain atmosphere ... of varying degrees of intimidation."

Papuan Governor Fights to Defend West Papua's Resources
John McBeth, writing in The Straits Times (Singapore) on August 21, 2007, reported on efforts by Papuan Governor Barnabas Suebu to halt plans by the Indonesian central government to massively expand palm oil plantations in West Papua.  A similar program carried out in collusion with unscrupulous developers, backed by Indonesian security forces, in Kalimantan destroyed vast stretches of rain forest and displaced the indigenous Dayak.
As in Kalimantan, the plan for West Papua, McBeth notes, would transform the demographic balance in West Papua by attracting waves of migrants from other parts of Indonesia to establish and work the plantations.  McBeth underscores that such action "raise(s) the specter of widespread land disputes and a reinvigorated independence movement."
The plan entails the creation of four million hectares of plantations concentrated in the south-eastern districts of Merauke, Boven Digoel and Mappi. According to McBeth, about 90 per cent of the area designated for conversion to palm oil plantation is primary forest that has never been logged.
McBeth cites resistance to the mammoth plan from local critics who oppose such massive projects.  Conservationists charge that the plantation plan will lead to rampant logging in the country's last great stands of tropical rainforest. On the other hand, if the pattern of destruction in Kalimantan were to be repeated, valuable hardwoods might simply be burned to speed up plantation development.
Governor Barnabus Suebu, according to McBeth, is taking the lead in efforts so stave off the plantation plan in favor of  preservation of the forests, inter alia as a way of winning for West Papua a stake in an international global market for carbon credit avoidance.  In a recent interview with the Asian Wall Street Journal, the Governor said he has been under pressure from Jakarta to create more plantations, based on a plan formulated before he was elected governor in July last year.
McBeth, a respected journalist with decades of reporting experience regarding Indonesia and the region notes:  "For the past three decades, the central government has been accused of plundering Papua's vast store of resources and giving nothing back. Even now, with the province awash in cash as a result of its special autonomy status, Jakarta is still seen to be falling short in showing more respect for the Papuans and their culture." He adds that "vast new areas of plantation would widen the resentment among indigenous communities, with the influx of hundreds of thousands of outside workers from other job-starved parts of Indonesia dwarfing former president Soeharto's controversial transmigration program." 
In that regard, the latest report on West Papua by the International Crisis Group (ICG) highlights already significant tensions among tribal groups, and between indigenous Papuans and non-Papuan settlers, as well as competition over political power and access to spoils at the regency and sub-district levels.
McBeth cites Governor Suebu's aides as describing the Governor as of the view that because the 2001 Special Autonomy Law stipulates that only foreign affairs, defense, justice, religion and fiscal affairs are the responsibility of the central government, "Papua's forests belong to the Papuans."  (Note: The following report offers an example of violence associated with oil palm plantation development.)
Indonesian Military Conspires with Oil Palm Developers against Local Papuans

The Institute for Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights (IPAHR) issued a media release August 24 that details a conspiracy between the Indonesian military (TNI) and private companies seeking to develop an oil palm plantation out of pristine forest.  The conspiracy has targeted local Papuans who have rallied to oppose the development.  Allied with the TNI is Korindo, a Korean-Indonesian timber and oil palm firm. 

IPAHR, relying on local sources in southern West Papua, the site of the violence, reports both military violence and an attack by traditional Papuan landowners on the personnel and property of Korean- and Indonesian-owned logging and oil palm plantation projects. “One non-Papuan employee of Korindo, the Korean and Indonesian owned logging and oil palm company, was reportedly killed and four Korindo company trucks were found burnt after indigenous people from the Muyu tribe and company employees clashed near the remote town of Asiki, some 250 kilometers northwest of Australia’s Torres Strait (in mid-August).” 

IPAHR also reports that the TNI killed at least one local Papuan on August 20. According to IPAHR, the TNI has accused the Papuan resistance (OPM/TPN guerrillas) of the attacks. It appears, however, that the TNI is using the "pretext" of an OPM/TPN attack "to act against local people in what is a land rights and industrial resource development issue."  IPAHR explains, however, that Bernard Mawen, the regional commander of the OPM/TPN ,and also from the Muyu tribal group, is supportive of non-violent struggle to promote human rights and self-determination in West Papua.  IPAHR notes, however, that the OPM/TPN under command of Bernard Mawen has not engaged in military action for many years.

IPAHR offers the following background, placing the above violence in context: “The recent violence reported at the Korindo operation appears to be as a result of longstanding dispute over land rights between Korindo and local indigenous traditional landowners, not just the Muyu but also the Auyu, Mandobo, and Marind from other parts of southern West Papua who are also effected by Korindo's operations. In addition, there has been a very long history of violence by Indonesian security forces in this region. At times the TNI (Indonesian military) and police work to protect Korindo's interests and at other times they have launched brutal and indiscriminate military operations against the civilian population and small bands of West Papuan guerilla fighters.”
“The recent incident attack on Korindo's operations in Asiki by the members of the Muyu can also be seen within a context of increased military repression in West Papua which appears to be coordinated by the military command in West Papua.  It would appear to serve the interests of the military to generate conflict with the local people. The military can justify the increase in repression, which in turn stops any effective voice of local opposition to the Korindo timber and oil palm operations.” said Matthew Jamieson of the IPAHR.

“Ultimately the conflict over the expansion of oil palms is driven by international demand for bio-fuel.  The Indonesian government appears to be intent on a massive expansion in oil palm plantations as a source of bio-fuel. This will involve the destruction of millions of hectares of rainforest and with it the indigenous populations who have lived in and managed these forests for thousands of years.”

Top-Down Development in West Papua Excludes Papuans

An August 30 Jakarta Post op-ed by Papuan priest, Neles Tebay, exposes the Indonesian central government's deliberate exclusion of Papuan civil society and citizens in government planning for West Papua's development.  The administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has assembled a team of senior government officials to begin to address at long last the absence of basic services in West Papua for Papuans.  A May 16 presidential decree highlighted some priorities in the central government plan, including food security, poverty reduction, education, healthcare, infrastructure and affirmative action programs aimed at empowering indigenous Papuans. 
While these priorities reflect genuine needs among Papuans, they were decided neither by the Papuans nor in consultation with them, but solely by the central government.  They exclude other urgent needs, including issues of justice and an end to Indonesian military and police brutality and impunity for human rights crimes.  This latest example of Jakarta's unwillingness to dialog with Papuans about decades of human rights abuse by security forces, marginalization and the central government's malign neglect with regards to health and educational services will likely harden already broad Papuan rejection of "special autonomy."
Respected UK Health Journal Condemns Abysmal Conditions in West Papua
The UK Health Journal, The Lancet, in its August 25 - 31 issue provided a devastating critique of  human rights and health conditions in West Papua. The following excerpts are the principal conclusions from the report written by Susan Rees and Derrick Silove.
The recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, Out of Sight, alerted the international community to the hidden human-rights abuses in West Papua, Indonesia's most easterly province. The effect of the crisis on the health and wellbeing of the indigenous population of West Papua is an issue that has attracted little attention in contemporary medical publications.
Both restrictions on data-gathering by foreigners and the inaccessible terrain create major obstacles to undertaking research in West Papua. The HRW report therefore, is invaluable because it provides documentation of systematic abuses, including torture, rape, and extrajudicial killings directed against militants and the civilian population. Police and military personnel who are accused of violations seem to be immune from prosecution [1]. Refugees fleeing persecution have sought asylum in Papua New Guinea and in developed countries, such as the UK and Australia. A participant in our mental health project of Australian-based refugees, John (an alias), recounted a story that is consistent not only with the major human-rights and legal reports from West Papua ([1]and [2]) but also with stories from other participants in the project. As a child, John witnessed the burning of his village and the brutal public rape, torture, and murder of his family. The military apprehended his uncle as he fled to the border, tearing his finger and toenails off before forcing him to dig his own grave and shooting him in public. John suffers from multiple musculoskeletal complaints and nightmares arising from his torture. Furthermore, he lives in constant fear for the safety of his remaining family left in West Papua.
Indonesian rule has brought about major changes to the demography, ecology, and traditional way of life in West Papua ([3] and [4]). Mining operations that are poorly regulated are polluting major rivers, while extensive illegal logging is destroying natural habitats that are crucial to a traditional land-based culture ([3] and [4]). Indonesia's transmigration policy has relocated more than three-quarters of a million ethnically distinct settlers to West Papua, which is an immense social transformation that threatens to marginalise the indigenous people, whose numbers are further threatened by a falling fertility rate [3]. Indigenous Papuans have been displaced to areas where traditional crops are difficult to grow and the prevalence of communicable diseases is high. Questions have been raised about whether these fundamental disruptions to the traditional way of life constitute an insidious form of cultural genocide [1].
Public-health indicators, although incomplete, suggest that the general health of Papuans is poor ([5]and [6]). Malaria, upper respiratory tract infections,and dysentery are major causes of childhood morbidity, with infant mortality ranging from 70 to 200 per 1000 [5]. More than 50% of children younger than 5 years are undernourished, and immunisation rates are low ([5] and [6]). Maternal mortality is three times the rate of women in other parts of Indonesia [5]. HIV/AIDS rates are 40 times the national average [7], and the epidemic is being fuelled by a burgeoning sex trade, low levels of literacy, and inadequate services for prevention and treatment of this disease ([7] and [3]).  In 2000, Indonesia acknowledged the parlous state of health in West Papua, committing US$2.25 billion to enhance services [6]. However, critics continue to comment about the gross inadequacy of the medical system in relation to human resources, access, and quality ([2][3] and [7]).
In response to international criticisms, Indonesia has offered West Papuans a special autonomy plan to increase participation of indigenous people in governance [1]. The HRW report suggests, however, that the political changes have not led to an improvement in human rights. Vested interests, the remoteness of the territory, and marginalisation of indigenous people are obstacles to genuine political change. Nevertheless, international pressures have prompted improvements in human rights in other conflict-affected areas of Indonesia, specifically in East Timor and Aceh. The international medical profession can play a part in bringing about change—e.g. by engaging with and supporting progressive Papuan health professionals in their efforts to improve services, establish training programmes, and improve standards of care in the region. Furthermore, gathering more comprehensive data that focuses on the public-health results of conflict and socioeconomic neglect is essential. By maintaining a close scrutiny of health outcomes in West Papua, medical professionals can have a key role in breaking the prevailing silence about one of the world's least publicised human-rights crises.


1 Human Rights Watch, Out of sight: endemic abuse and impunity in Papua's central highlands, Human Rights Watch 19 (2007), pp. 1­81.
2 E Brundige, W King and P Vahali et al., Indonesian human rights abuses in West Papua: application of the law of genocide to the history of Indonesian control. In: K Allard, Editor, Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, Yale Law School, New Haven (2004).
3 J Wing and P King, Genocide in West Papua? The role of the Indonesian state apparatus and a current assessment of the Papuan people, West Papua Project at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Sydney and Jayapura (2005).
4 Environmental Investigation Agency and Telapak, The last frontier: illegal logging in Papua and China's massive timber theft, Environmental Investigation
Agency and Telapak, London and Jakarta (2005), pp. 1­27.
5 D Blair and D Phillips, Indonesia Commission: peace and progress in Papua, Council of Foreign Relations, New York (2003), p. 76.
6 H Diani, Health: a specter for Irian Jaya, Jakarta Post (Aug 21, 2000), p. 5.
7 L Butt, G Numbery and J Morin, The smokescreeen of culture: AIDS and the Indigenous in Papua, Indonesia. In: R Jones and SA Finau, Editors, Pacific
health dialogue: Guam and health transition in the Pacific 9, Resource Books, Waimauku (2002), pp. 283­289

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