Indonesia sends more troops to quell fresh Papua unrest

Indonesia has deployed over 1,000 additional security personnel to West Papua to quell the violent protests taking place in the restive province over the past several days, Indonesian police said on Wednesday.

The unrest was triggered by accusations that security forces had arrested and insulted Papuan students in East Java's Surabaya city when they were protesting for self-determination for their homeland last week. Videos circulated widely on the internet show police, backed by soldiers, calling the Papuan students "monkeys" and "dogs."

Read more: Papua killings revive debate on decades-old conflict

The demonstrations turned violent on Monday when people torched a local legislative building and set fire to cars in Manokwari, the provincial capital.

Papua is a former Dutch colony in the western part of New Guinea that is ethnically and culturally distinct from much of Indonesia. It was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a UN-sponsored ballot that was seen as a sham by many.

Since then, a low-level insurgency has plagued the mineral-rich region, which is divided into two provinces, Papua and West Papua. In recent years, some Papua students, including some who study in other provinces, have become vocal in calling for self-determination for their region.

Heavy-handed response?

"The situation is under control," Indonesian national police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal said. "We are prioritizing persuasive measures and communicating with community and religious leaders," he added.

Internet speeds in the area had also been slowed as part of the efforts to prevent hoaxes spreading, a spokesman at the information and communication ministry said.

But activists have criticized the government's heavy-handed response to the unrest in Papua. The rights group Setara Institute said police and military reinforcements would exacerbate violence and it urged President Joko Widodo to send an envoy to open dialogue with residents there.

Indonesian security forces have intensified operations in Papua in recent months, after separatist rebels killed about two dozen construction workers who had been building a road in December.

sri/ng (dpa, AP, Reuters)

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