Jakarta, Indonesia – Large demonstrations in Indonesia’s West Papua region have turned violent as thousands of protesters, angered by alleged police abuse against ethnic Papuan students, burned public facilities and blocked roads.
There were no immediate reports of casualties. The demonstrations are still ongoing.
Kantor DPRP di Manokwari dibakar. pic.twitter.com/Ii1AzSneSS
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“We are not white and red, we are morning star,” the protesters shouted, in reference to the Indonesian flag and the Papuan banner. Individuals carrying the banned flag could face arrest and imprisonment of up to 15 years.
There are also demonstrations reported in the city of Jayapura, the capital and largest city of Papua, the country’s easternmost province. Hundr of people riding their motorbikes were seen joining the protest.
The Indonesia-based news website, Tirto, and other news agencies reported that the students were then subjected to racial abuse. They were reportedly called “monkeys” by bystanders, as they were rounded up by police.
The students were released from police detention on Sunday. But by then, tensions have already risen, with the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) calling on Papuans to join the protest against the government.
The government in Jakarta maintains that West Papua region, which occupies the western half of the island of Papua New Guinea, is Indonesian because it was part of the Dutch East Indies which forms the basis of the country’s modern-day borders.
West Papua is the poorest region in the country, and there have been allegations of human rights violation taking place since then.
In December, violence also erupted in the province, killing at least 17 people and triggering a military crackdown.
Some 35,000 civilians have been forced from their homes as the security forces attempt to flush out the rebels from the forested mountains.