Protests erupt in Indonesia’s West Papua region

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Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Indonesia’s West Papua region enraged over the recent arrest and detention of scores of ethnic Papuan students.

The demonstration turned violent as the protesters burned public facilities and blocked major roads across the city by burning tyres and tree branches.

In West Papua provincial capital of Manokwari, protesters set fire to the local parliament building.

“The city centre, market, the port are next to the parliament building, as well as shopping centres. Everything’s affected. Practically, the whole city is not running, if not to say completely paralysed,” Deputy governor Mohamad Lakotani told Kompas TV.

There are also demonstrations reported in the city of Jayapura, the capital and largest city of Papua, the country’s easternmost province. Hundreds of people riding their motorbikes were seen joining the protest.

National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said security personnel were trying to calm the situation.

The spark for the latest anger erupted last week following the arrest of Papuan students living in Surabaya and Malang in Java island for allegedly throwing the Indonesian flag into a sewer during the celebration of Indonesia’s Independence Day on Aug 17.

During a news conference on Sunday, Albert Mungguar, an activist said the police fired tear gas into the dormitory before arresting 43 students, calling them “monkeys” during the operation.

Papua and West Papua provinces make up a former Dutch colony that was incorporated into Indonesia after a widely criticized UN-backed referendum in 1969.

President Joko Widodo has sought to ease tension in the restive region, including by building the Trans Papua highway to spur economic activities and improve people’s welfare but the unrest has persisted.

 




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