Deadly riots in West Papua
Thirty-two civilians, mostly non-Papuans, were killed when a new round of deadly riots broke out in the Indonesia province of Papua on Monday.
Rioters set fire to government buildings and shops. Papua police say they pulled twelve more bodies from the wreckage on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 32. That number is expected to go up as the authorities search the area. A further 72 people were hospitalized for burns and head injuries.
Hundreds of people in the city of Wamena joined the violent protest after a rumor spread that a teacher had insulted an indigenous student.
A separate confrontation between student protesters and security forces in coastal Jayapura, 250 kilometers north-west of Wamena, left four dead on Monday.
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Located on the western half of the island of New Guinea and long racked by a simmering violent separatist insurgency, Papua encompasses Indonesia’s two easternmost provinces.
A former Dutch colony, West Papua was formally incorporated into Indonesia in 1969, after an undisputed vote of about 1,025 representative tribal leaders. The result of the plebiscite was overseen and endorsed by the United Nations.
Since the democratization in 1998, especially since 2007, democracy by mean of elections has been introduced to increase political participation in the two provinces. The fact that the leaders of Papua and West Papua provinces are democratically elected by the people has strengthened the legality of the region as a province of Indonesia.
During the Abdurrahman Wahid administration in 2000, aside from changing the province name from “Irian Jaya” to “Papua”, Papua gained a “Special Autonomy” status, a political compromise between Papuans and the central government.
The political will of politicians in Jakarta to proceed with the implementation of the Special Autonomy was formalized in 2001 with the special autonomy law.