Hundreds of students have fled fighting in Indonesia’s Papua Province, a local non-governmental organization said, amid unconfirmed reports of violent military reprisals after a massacre of civilian workers by separatist rebels.
The death of 16 government-linked employees at a remote jungle work camp in early December last year marked a dramatic escalation from decades of mostly sporadic skirmishes between poorly armed and disorganized guerrillas, and a powerful Indonesian military.
Subsequent clashes prompted the Nduga District government to evacuate more than 400 students to Wamena, the capital of neighboring Jayawijaya District, according to Humanitarian Volunteers for Nduga and a local education agency official.
“Some of the students are suffering from trauma,” said Ence Geong, a coordinator at the organization.
Scores of other residents are believed to have fled to neighboring districts or into the jungle amid allegations that soldiers carried out arson, harassment and killing of livestock and civilians, residents and activists said.
Resident Sripona Nirigi said that her elderly father, Gemin — a priest — was shot dead in December last year during a sweep of the area by the military.
His burned corpse was found by one of her siblings about two weeks later, she added.
Her account could not be independently verified.
Papua military spokesman Colonel Muhammad Aidi rejected allegations that the military had fired on civilians, calling it a “hoax.”
“If there are claims of civilian victims, they’re definitely not ordinary civilians,” Aidi said. “They are part of the [separatists] that are attacking the military.”
Aidi said that the army has investigated the alleged killing of the priest and denied he was shot by soldiers, saying it was still unclear whether he was alive or dead.
He added that two soldiers have been killed and several more were injured in clashes with rebels since the December massacre of workers who were building bridges and roads.
The rebels said they were legitimate military targets.
Local commander Binsar Sianipar confirmed that the students had been evacuated, but said it was due to a teacher shortage in the area, not the military presence.
Classes are being held in tents and the children are staying in overcrowded conditions at relatives’ houses, Geong said. About 80 teachers have joined them.
Military operations in Nduga have displaced at least 1,000 people, lawyer and activist Veronica Koman said.
“Jakarta ordered the military operation, but has been doing nothing to assist ... civilians [who are] now internally displaced persons,” said Koman, who is in contact with church leaders and activists in Papua. “I’ve seen credible photos and videos of burnt livestock and houses, including a sick old man burnt inside a house.”
Indonesian security forces have long been accused of rights abuses against Papua’s ethnic Melanesian population, including extrajudicial killings of activists and arrests of peaceful protestors.
Papua, which shares a border with Papua New Guinea, has been the site of low-level insurgency since the 1960s.
The former Dutch colony declared itself independent in 1961, but Indonesia took control of Papua two years later on the condition that it hold an independence referendum.
Jakarta annexed the mineral-rich region in 1969 with a UN-backed vote that is widely seen as a sham.
‘SACRIFICED’: Hu Weifeng became the sixth doctor to die from COVID-19 at Wuhan Central Hospital, where calls to raise the alarm over the virus were suppressed The death of a Chinese doctor at Wuhan’s “whistle-blower hospital” has prompted a wave of anger at hospital authorities for not protecting front-line health workers in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hu Weifeng (胡衛鋒), 42, a urologist at Wuhan Central Hospital where the whistle-blower ophthalmologist Li Wenliang (李文亮) worked, died of the virus on Tuesday after a four-month battle. Hu is the sixth doctor from his hospital killed by the virus. Another doctor who spoke out, Ai Fen (艾芬), said that authorities told hospital staff not to wear protective gear so as not to cause panic and reprimanded her for “harming
RALLYING A DEFENSE: Former envoys wrote an op-ed piece defending Anna Lindstedt, who was removed for attempting to free Swedish book publisher Gui Minhai in China Sweden’s former ambassador to Beijing goes on trial in Stockholm on Friday for allegedly overstepping her mandate by trying to negotiate the release of a Chinese-Swedish dissident held in China. Anna Lindstedt is accused of brokering an unauthorized meeting during her time as ambassador to free publisher Gui Minhai (桂民海). Lindstedt — a veteran envoy who had previously represented Sweden in both Vietnam and Mexico, and acted as Sweden’s chief negotiator at the 2015 climate summit in Paris — has denied the charges. Gui, a Chinese-born Swedish citizen known for publishing gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders out of a Hong Kong book
‘LEAST WE CAN DO’: The gesture was made famous by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality that targeted minorities They are images that surprised and moved Americans: police officers taking a knee alongside protesters in the most widespread civil unrest to rock the US in decades — and in doing so embracing an anti-racism gesture denounced by US President Donald Trump. As Trump pushes for a crackdown on often-violent protests over the death of George Floyd, police officers from New York to Los Angeles to Houston, Texas, are making gestures of solidarity with demonstrators incensed at the latest case of an unarmed black man dying while in police custody. “I took off the helmet and laid the batons down. Where do
From boiled catfish soup to spicy fried frog, an eight-year-old in pyjamas and a chef’s hat is delighting Myanmar with her culinary prowess in a nation still being told to stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moe Myint May Thu’s mother posted a video online at the end of April showing off her daughter’s skills as the youngster threw together some spicy fried prawns. With her wide, gap-toothed grin, the video has bounced across social media and brought stardom to the child along with an online moniker: “Little Chef.” She now sells dishes to order and is counting the dividends. “I just