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Increasing tension in West Papua
Australian West Papua Association (Sydney) Media Release - December 6, 2018
Joe Collins of AWPA said, "there have been many conflicting reports in relation to the incident including the number of those killed which varies between 19 and 31 dead".
Although media reports have indicated that those killed were civilian construction workers it has also been reported that up to 400 Army Engineers are being used in the construction of the 4,300-kilometer Trans-Papua road in areas of difficult terrain.
The Commander of the XVII Cenderawasih Kodam Maj. Gen. Joshua Sembiring said the armed forces and the police would dispatch troops both on land and water, assisted by helicopters to evacuate the victims. Up to 170 troops are reported to be involved in the operation.
Collins said, "although more information on the incident will eventually emerge, there is real concern for local people involved in the area where military operations take place. The security forces will be under great pressure to find those responsible and could be tempted to retaliate or use a heavy handed security approach to the incident as has occurred in the past".
(Benny Wenda from the Free West Papua campaign said we should also be aware of the use of Indonesian propaganda in matters such as this incident).
In the past the military have burned homes and destroyed food gardens leaving the local people traumatised and in fear for the livescausing them to flee to the bush. In July 2018 a military operation took place in the same region of Ndugacausing large numbers of local people to flee the area.
The Jakarta Post (15 July) reported at the time that human rights activists had urged the National Police and the Indonesian Military to withdraw their joint operation from Alguru in Kenyam, Nduga regency. The human rights organisations included the Papua Legal Aid Institute (LBH Papua) and the Papua chapter of the Indonesian Forum for Environment (Walhi Papua).
It is in the interest of the Australia Government to have a stable region to our north and it is hoped that our Foreign Minister Marise Payne will raise the matter with the Indonesian Government urging them to control the military during any military operations that will take place. This will save further lives in the conflict area.
It is also hoped that the foreign minister will raise the matter of the arrest of the arrest of over 500 West Papuans and their supporters in West Papua and Indonesia on the 1st December as the peacefully celebrated West Papuan national flag day.
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