West Papua movement claims Indonesia continues arresting hundreds of pro-independence supporters

Sovereignist leader claims Indonesian government "is increasingly scared" · One thousand Indonesians demonstrate in West Papua against independence

Pro-independence demonstration held during the ACP summit.
Pro-independence demonstration held during the ACP summit. Author: Free West Papua Campaign
The West Papua independence movement is denouncing these days a new wave of arrests of West Papua demonstrators, who on May 31 again demanded the right to self-determination of the Indonesian-held territory and respect for human rights. The mass detention comes barely one month after Indonesian forces arrested over 1,700 people who commemorated the annexation of West Papua by Indonesia.

According to independence movement sources, those detained where almost 600, in several cities in West Papua. Demonstrators wanted to draw attention from delegates participating in the summit of the Asia, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) in neighboring Papua New Guinea.

One of the leaders of the independence movement, Benny Wenda, believes that these waves of arrests have to do with the fact that the Indonesian government "is becoming increasingly scared of increasing international support for the people of West Papua."

The pro-independence movement, under the ULMWP umbrella, has recently achieved two diplomatic victories. In 2015, the ULMWP was granted observer status at the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), a regional alliance of Melanesian countries in the Pacific. And one month ago, elected officials and lawyers from around the world called on the UN to organize a referendum on West Papua self-determination.

Those requesting the referendum argue that West Papua was not properly decolonized in 1960, a failure that opened the door to the annexation of the former Dutch colony by Indonesia.

Indonesians rally against independence

In response to recent Papuan demonstrations, one thousand Indonesian settlers in West Papua rallied earlier this week against the territory's independence, calling for a ban on any group demanding self-determination.

In recent decades, the Indonesian government has favored the settlement of people from other parts of Indonesia. According to some sources, the process has caused native Papuans to become a minority of the population of West Papua.