Asia-Pacific

Police regain control in Papua after clashes, government buildings torched

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Protests over the detention of scores of Papuan students are under control, Indonesia's police chief says.

Indonesia's police chief says authorities in the easternmost Papua region were regaining control after protesters set fire to tyres and torched a local parliament building over the recent detention of scores of Papuan students.

A separatist movement has simmered for decades in Papua, while there have also been frequent complaints of rights abuses by Indonesian security forces.

The spark for the latest anger appears to have been the detention of Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java, for allegedly bending a flagpole in front of a dormitory during the celebration of Indonesia's Independence Day on August 17, according to activists.

A burnt bus sits outside the parliament building during the protest.
A burnt bus sits outside the parliament building during the protest.
EPA

Police fired tear gas into the dormitory before arresting 43 students, Albert Mungguar, an activist, told a news conference on Sunday. He said students had been called "monkeys" during the operation.

On Monday morning, Papuan protesters set fire to a parliament building and blocked streets in the provincial capital of West Papua, Manokwari, by burning tyres and tree branches, paralysing the town, Deputy Governor Mohamad Lakotani told Kompas TV.

A parliament building burns during the protest in Manokwari, West Papua.
A parliament building burns during the protest in Manokwari, West Papua.
EPA

Television footage showed a group of about 150 people marching on the streets, as well as footage of smoke billowing from a parliament building.

 

"According to the report I got from the West Papua police, the situation has gradually turned conducive," National Police Chief Tito Karnavian told reporters, adding officers from other parts of eastern Indonesia could be brought in if needed.

Papua Governor Lukas Enembe said Papuans were angry because of "the extremely racist words by East Java people, the police and military", he told broadcaster TVone.

East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa in a televised statement said: "We apologise because this does not represent the voice of the people of East Java" and described the slur as "someone's personal outburst of emotion".

The incident also triggered a protest in Jayapura, the capital of neighbouring Papua province, where TV footage showed thousands peacefully protesting on the streets.

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