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West Papuan Civilians In Danger Amid Indonesian Military Attacks

Above Photo: Flickr/ sumaryanto bronto

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  • 50 year old woman and 30 year old man killed by suspected Indonesian mortar attacks
  • Urgent international media access needed to help verify and document what is really happening
  • Between 200 to 700 Indonesian military and police personnel deployed and West Papuan villages raided
  • Interviews available with West Papuan leaders as well as academic and legal experts

More info below

Over the past few weeks, news has filtered out through West Papua about of a standoff between Indonesian military and police personnel, and West Papuan “rebels” in the Tembagapura region; which is located next to the world’s largest goldmine, operated by Freeport McMoRan.[3]

At least 200, possibly up to 700, Indonesian military and police personnel are currently occupying and surrounding the villages of Banti and Kimbeli and have been imposing a blockade, making it almost impossible for people to leave and enter. West Papuan people are reportedly being intimidated and having their goods confiscated by the Indonesian military. [3] on 17th November, the Indonesian Security Forces raided the villages, just days after Indonesian police spokesperson Suryadi Diaz said of “rebels”, ‘They will be taken dead or alive,’.[4]

The Indonesian military announced that they had “evacuated” the 300 Indonesian “transmigrant” settlers in the villages but had left the 1000 or so West Papuans who had no desire to come with them. West Papuan people were deeply worried after the Indonesian settlers have left the area, the Indonesian military and police would then feel free to brutally crack down on West Papuan villagers. Latest reports indicate that up to 804 West Papuan villagers eventually left their villages and were taken by the Indonesian military to the city of Timika. [5] However, the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), alleges that the villagers were “forced to flee” due to “planned Indonesian military operations” in the area. [6]

After communicating with villagers in Banti, West Papuan media outlet Suara Papua reports that West Papuans were terrified when the military came into their village. Many West Papuans ran away due to fear and trauma from previous military actions. [7] The Indonesian military and police continue to hunt for West Papuan “rebels” who had been living with their relatives in Banti and Kimbeli but have since moved into the mountains. There are also unconfirmed reports that the Indonesian military and police have been surrounding a church in Banti full of West Papuan people, who are afraid that if they leave, they will be targeted.[8]

West Papuan people killed by Indonesian military mortar attacks

On 17th November, we received unconfirmed reports from West Papuan news outlet Suara Papua[9], The West Papua National Committee (KNPB)[10] and locals on the ground that the Indonesian military fired “ballistic missiles” or “rockets” into nearby Utikini village in the morning at 8:15, West Papua time. It was reported that 2 West Papuan people, a man and a woman were killed when these explosives hit the village and that 5-other people were wounded. 3 of those wounded are reportedly in a critical condition.[11] According to these reports, those killed were:

Merina Waker (female, aged 50 years old) and Ilawe Tabuni (male, aged 30 years old).

The names of those injured were: Aser Magai (male)  Guwanus Tabuni (male) Deka Anow (male) Dominus Dogomo (male), Melianus Kobogau (male). 

Unverified footage appearing to show Indonesian soldiers firing shells in the Tembagapura area on 13th November has also been released.[12] Following this, the Indonesian military admitted firing mortars on West Papuans and admitted that Merina and Ilawe people had been killed but said this was “unexpected”. A West Papuan man claims that they were in fact civilians.[13]

Speaking on 17th, the Nobel Peace Prize nominated West Papuan Independence Leader Benny Wenda who is the Spokesperson for the peaceful umbrella movement, The United Liberation Movement for West Papua, stated:

“I am deeply concerned about the ongoing reports from the Tembagapura area of West Papua, especially the unconfirmed reports of West Papuan people being killed and wounded by ballistic missiles. I call upon all sides to show restraint and consider and fully respect human rights and especially the rights and needs of civilians. We don’t want any more bloodshed in West Papua. There must be a peaceful solution, both to the situation in Tembagapura and the wider situation in occupied West Papua.”

He has written a wider statement on the situation which can be read in full here, but in summary, he also stated:

“With the lives of civilians in danger, the need for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in West Papua is as important and crucial as ever. It is time for the people of West Papua to be allowed our fundamental right to self-determination to be expressed through an Internationally Supervised Vote on self-determination. Only this can ensure a peaceful solution at last for West Papua. Time is running out.”[14]

The Free West Papua Campaign echoes the ULMWP in calling for a peaceful solution and the immediate and unconditional protection of all civilians in the area. We reiterate and fully support the ULMWP’s efforts and calls for a peaceful conflict resolution in West Papua which allows the people of West Papua their fundamental right to self-determination as guaranteed to them by the United Nations.

We also join ULMWP in appealing for unrestricted international media access to help document and expose what is really happening.

Background information

The Indonesian government’s justification for its raid is its claim that around 100 West Papuans from the area were holding 1300 people, mostly their own relatives, “as hostages” in their own villages. However as Natalius Pigai, from the National Human Rights Commission, has confirmed, “I assure you there is no hostage situation. It is impossible (they) would hold their own relatives hostage.” He also stated, “People are terrified, that’s why (the Free Papua group) are standing guard…so the military cannot enter,” [15] 

Jonathan Kibak, a community leader from Banti told Fairfax Media, “I would like to stress we are not being held hostage,” He confirmed that West Papuans had no desire to leave the area but that they were frightened of the Indonesian military and police. Of the few Indonesian migrants also living in the area, Jonathan told the media, “They are safe, they are not being treated differently. They are our neighbours.” He also said, “No one in the village is being stopped from doing daily activities.” [16]

According to Radio New Zealand, Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman said that ”contrary to Indonesian media reports, the heavy presence of the security forces was hampering, rather than assisting, the villagers’ ability to access their food gardens.

“They are being intimidated and reluctant to garden, so they’ve just been living and eating just by buying stuff from kiosks. But they’ve also been intimidated by lots of questions by police and military while they buy their food.So the Papua [provincial] government has been trying to send food to Banti village, but police blocked this access.”

While police conducted a ceremonial opening of access to the village, the villagers still had not received the food from the provincial government.” [17]

In light of the deteriorating situation, Amnesty International -Indonesia is calling upon the Indonesian parliament to review their military operations in the area. [18]

Photos: 1. Indonesian military in the Tembagapura area earlier this month – Fairfax Media.
2. Indonesian military and police purportedly surrounding a church in Banti where West Papuan are inside. – Supplied.


[1] Free West Papua Campaign 

[2] Hawaii Public Radio

[3] The West Papua National Committee (KNPB), through personal communication with eye witnesses. More information can be found here:

[4] Reuters

[5] Washington Post 

[6] Victor Yeimo, Chairperson of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), via Facebook.

[7] Suara Papua Editor Arnold Belau through Twitter.

[8] Personal communication with individuals on the ground.

[9] Suara Papua Editor Arnold Belau through Twitter.

[10] Victor Yeimo, Chairperson of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), via Facebook.

[11] Personal communication with individuals on the ground.

[12] Facebook

[13] New Detik 

[14] Personal communication with ULMWP Spokesperson Benny Wenda. For more information, please e-mail

[15] The Jakarta Post

[16] Sydney Morning Herald

[17] Radio New Zealand

[18] KBR

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