In brief

“Exclusive” images of Australian TV show destruction of Papuan village by Indonesian army

Obtaining videos related to military operations in West Papua is rare chance

Video screenshot where the burnt village can be seen.
Video screenshot where the burnt village can be seen. Author: Foreign Correspondent / ABC
Australian television ABC has broadcast “exclusive” footage showing the destruction of a village in West Papua. According to the report, the events are the result of an Indonesian helicopter bombardment, after an independence guerrilla group killed at least 16 people in a 2018 attack. A witness blames the army for having “murdered, arrested, [and] tortured” Papuans during the operation.

It is uncommon for the media to get videos related to the West Papua conflict, especially regarding military operations. The images broadcast by the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program allegedly show the consequences of an Indonesian operation on villages in the highlands of West Papua. The plight of the villagers, the destruction of houses, and some wounded people can be seen.

The program states that hundreds of people took refuge in the jungle, only a few of them returning to bury the dead.

The images can be seen between minutes 19:15 and 20:00 of the program:

The report echoes allegations that chemical weapons were used in the attack, but also notes that Indonesia categorically rejects this allegation. The broadcast also quotes human rights groups according to which the operation killed more than 200 people.

The military operation is said to have taken place after a faction of the armed Papuan independence movement TPNPB killed at least 16 workers of the Trans-Papua highway, which runs through West Papua from west to east, in December 2018. The independence movement argues that Indonesia’s only purpose in building it is to facilitate the extraction of natural resources. The Indonesian government claims the road will benefit all residents of West Papua.

More militarization taking advantage of the coronavirus

Almost coinciding with the broadcast of the images, leader of the pro-independence United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) Benny Wenda has denounced that Indonesia is taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis to “further militarise” the territory. Wenda blames the Indonesian authorities for having denied food for a whole week to several imprisoned Papuan activists, including Bazoka Logo, chairman of the political bureau of the ULMWP.