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Australia urges restraint in West Papua amid ongoing violence

PACIFIC, RNZ

High School Stucents Demonstration Wamena 23 September 2019
High School Stucents Demonstration Wamena 23 September 2019

Australia’s government has urged restraint by all relevant parties in West Papua amid ongoing unrest in the Indonesian ruled region.

The death toll from violence in the Papuan cities of Jayapura and Wamena on Monday has risen to 26.

Violence erupted in both cities as Indonesian security forces cracked down on student protests.

This follows weeks of unrest triggered by large protests in the region last month.

Outside the UN headquarters in New York, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne told SBS that her government was seeking updates about the situation.

“Well we are obviously very concerned about the reports of violence in Papua and West Papua. And they are matters which our post in Jakarta is obviously following up with authorities there. We urge absolute restraint from both sides in actions that are happening on the ground there.”

Australia's Defence Minister Marise Payne
Australia’s Defence Minister Marise Payne Photo: AFP

Monday’s unrest in Jayapura led to the arrest of over 700 Papuan students.

Many of them had recently returned home early from study in Javanese cities, where racist attacks on Papuan students last month prompted widespread protests in the Papuan provinces, and also raised fears for the students’ safety.

An additional 6000 Indonesian police and military personnel were deployed to the heavily restricted region by early September as unrest sparked by the protests left at least ten people dead.

West Papuan students apprehended by police, Waena, Jayapura, 23 September.
West Papuan students apprehended by police, Waena, Jayapura, 23 September. Photo: Supplied

Since last year, Indonesian security forces in Papua have also been preoccupied in the Highlands region by a protracted armed conflict with a pro-independence guerilla unit named the West Papua Liberation Army.

The ongoing unrest, as well as issues of human rights abuses and self-determination in Papua, is expected to be raised by some Pacific Islands leaders at this week’s UN General Assembly.



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