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Free Papua Movement
Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM)

Indonesia faced separatist and sectarian fighting in several parts of the far-flung archipelago, in addition to Papua, giving rise to fears the country could break apart. The government took a hard-line on separatist movements since it lost control of East Timor in 1999.

Migration from other parts of Indonesia has increased the number of non-Papuan residents to about 40 percent of the current population in Papua and West Papua. The total population of both provinces is 2.4 million, of which 900,000 are migrants. Past government-sponsored transmigration programs, which moved households from more densely populated areas to less populated regions, account for part of the influx. The majority of the population shift has resulted from natural migration trends from Indonesias large population centers to Papua where there is relatively low population density. Some Papuans have voiced concerns that the migrants have interfered with their traditional ways of life, land usage, and economic opportunities.

Although the region is rich in natural resources, including gold, copper, natural gas, and timber, Papua lags behind other parts of Indonesia in some key development indicators. Poverty is widespread in Papua and Papua has the lowest level of adult literacy in Indonesia at 74 percent. The region also has a disproportionately high number of HIV/AIDS cases compared with the rest of Indonesia and high rates of infant and maternal mortality.

Irian Jaya, the former Dutch New Guinea or West New Guinea (WNG), remained under Dutch control after Indonesian independence in 1949. In December 1961 Indonesia's President Sukarno ordered the "liberation" of WNG. In 1961, in Operation Trikora, Indonesian forces took over West New Guinea, renaming it Irian Barat in the process. In January 1962 the new US President John F. Kennedy considered WNG to be a potentially dangerous Cold War focal point in Southeast Asia. With the escalation of the conflict in Vietnam, Kennedy sought to avoid a second crisi in the region. He refused to support the Netherlands -- a NATO ally -- over WNG. The US government pressured the Dutch into an August 1962 agreement for the transfer of WNG to Indonesia in May 1963. A combination of Indonesian political and military pressure and international efforts led to an October 1962 Dutch transfer of sovereignty to the United Nations (UN) Temporary Executive Authority, which was supported by a military observer force that oversaw the cease-fire. In May 1963, full administrative control was handed over to Indonesia.

After a 1969 Act of Free Choice, the territory, which the Indonesians called Irian Barat (West Irian) until 1972, was integrated into the republic as Indonesia's twenty-sixth province. Rich in natural resources, Irian Jaya (Victorious Irian)--as the province was renamed in 1972--is the largest and least-populated province.

Opposition to Indonesian control has existed since 1963. This opposition takes two forms: those in favor of a federation with Papua New Guinea, and those whom prefer independence as West Papua or "West Melanesia." The 'Act of Free Choice' in 1969 involved little more than a small number of hand-picked indigeneous Papuans who were taught a few simple pro-Indonesian phrases in Indonesian language and then told to say them in front of an audience. It was not in any way a 'choice', or 'free', and certainly did not involve the consent of even a substantial minority of the population, let alone a majority.

Cultural differences between Indonesians and the indigenous population and complaints about the Javanization of Irian Jaya exacerbated tensions. The cultural conflict was aggravated by indigenous people's perceptions that they were being left behind economically by a flood of Indonesian immigrants coming in via the central government sponsored transmigration program. Native-born Irianese also resented the so-called spontaneous immigrants who dominated the informal sectors of urban economies. International critics of Indonesian policy in Irian Jaya accused the central government of waging a kind of demographic genocide.

Indonesia's efforts to exploit the resources and assimilate the indigenous Papuan and Melanesian populations into the national administration and culture met sporadic armed resistance from the Free Papua Movement and aroused international concerns. Since the 1960s the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka or OPM), which has its own flag, has waged a low-level but diehard guerilla separatist campaign. The campaign peaked in the late 1970s with attacks on government outposts. Although the OPM became a marginal domestic actor, more visible as an international symbol, the fact of its existence justified an intimidating Indonesian military presence in the province, where suspicions about Irianese loyalties led to abuses in the civil-military relationship.

The US Government asserted that the Free Papua Movement had committed human rights abuses including hostage-taking and summary executions, and it may be targeting US citizens or US companies in Irian Jaya Province for hostage taking or for sabotage. In 1996, a group of foreigners was taken hostage in Irian Jaya by the Free Papua Movement, although they have since been released. In January 1997 the Free Papua Movement took 26 people hostage in Mapunduma village. Several of the hostages were released, but 11 Indonesians and foreigners were released after a military operation in May 1997. Two of the Indonesian hostages were believed to have been killed by the OPM during the release operation.

Free Papua Movement supporters assert, that human rights abuses have been committed by Indonesian Special Forces (KOMPASSUS), and that the US mining conglomerate Freeport McMoRan has been responsible for environmental abuses in West Papua.

In 1998, after the downfall of authoritarian President Suharto, there were signs that Jakarta was trying to improve relations with Papua. However, negotiations came to an abrupt halt in 2001 when members of the army murdered separatist leader Theys Eluay. When Mr. Eluay's killers were convicted earlier in 2003, the head of the army described them as "heroes."

Indonesias parliament in 2001 granted Special Autonomy to Papua, which, along with Aceh, was one of the two areas in Indonesia that harbored high-profile separatist movements. This law devolved to provincial and local authorities all government functions outside of five national competencies; defense, foreign affairs, religious affairs, justice, and monetary/fiscal policy.

Forty years after Indonesia took over the former Dutch colony, tensions rann high in Papua, fueled in part a government decision to divide the province in two. Jakarta says the move makes it easier to administer the huge area. Some critics, however, say there are other motives. What there is now is outrage of an unprecedented level with Jakarta for this effort to divide the province with an almost explicitly stated motivation of weakening the political independence movement.

On 01 December 2003 separatists in Indonesia's Papua province marked what they consider independence day by defying a government ban on raising their flag. Recent administrative changes imposed by Jakarta have increased tensions in the province, and there seems to be no sign that discontent with Indonesian rule is easing. A group of about five hundred separatist sympathizers raised the Papua independence flag on Monday morning. Despite a government ban on flag-raising ceremonies, and a military order to shoot demonstrators, the ceremony passed peacefully. Over the previous few days, however, 42 people have been arrested for similar acts of defiance and could face life in prison.

Rebels from the poorly armed military wing of the independence movement have made a number of small attacks during 2003. Sporadic-low intensity fighting between the government forces and rebels continued with few major incidents in 2004, but analysts, however, say military force is unlikely to end the dispute.

On July 28, 2006 the military wing of the OPM, the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN), decided that after a three-day summit, its objectives should be sought exclusively through peaceful means, and that force would only be used in self-defence. On July 31 of that year, the OPM announced a unilateral ceasefire and six of its members turned themselves over to the Indonesian government. In the Southern Region of West Papua, local OPM commanders have either stopped armed struggle or remained inactive. The Indonesian Army announced in return that they will stop offensive military actions in Papua. Subsequently, several other OPM members gave themselves up to Indonesian authorities.

Despite the OPM's intentions of using nonviolence and the surrender of several of its members, on December 12, 2006 a series of brief clashes allegedly between OPM rebels and government forces occured in Puncak Jaya Regency, Papua.

Indonesia's government also blames OPM for an attack on a member of Brimob in the town of Mulia in Puncak Jaya on December 13, 2006. After these incidents of violence, the Indonesian military demanded the surrender of the OPM. The OPM claimed that some of these attacks the government blames them for were actually staged by the Indonesian Army to justify its presence in the region. In anticipation of increased fighting and an influx of troops, Mulia more or less shut down. Sweeping operations by the military that December led to an estimated 5,000 people fleeing their homes.

In Jaunary and August of 2007, Indonesian's military conducted counterinsurgency operations in Puncak Jaya, displacing thousands of people from the Yamo district in the regency. Further but unconfirmed new operations were conducted in January 2009. Up to 16,000 people displaced in Puncak Jaya have not returned as of March 2007.

According to the Indonesian police in July 2007, the Papuan separatist movement has weakened since only about 6% of the Papuan population in Indonesia are active members, and since the police claim that the OPM has 50 guns and rifles scattered throughout Papua. In July 2009, several attacks allegedly by OPM rebels have occured near the Freeport McMoran gold and copper mining complex in Papua near the town of Timika. The Indonesian government and media noted that Indonesian security forces looking to profiteer from the lucrative mine may also have been involved.

By 2010 the Special Autonomy Law of 2001 had not been fully implemented in Papua. Implementation was delayed due to lack of implementing regulations. In addition, the provincial governments lacked the capacity to take on certain key responsibilities and some central government ministries had yet to cede their authorities. Although full implementation of Special Autonomy had not yet been realized, Indonesian government officials pointed to increased funding to Papua, which had totaled Rp 27 trillion or approximately US$3 billion in the nine years since 2001, higher per capita than any other area in Indonesia. The Special Autonomy Law created the Papuan Peoples Council (MRP) to protect Papuan culture. The MRP rejected Special Autonomy, symbolically handing Special Autonomy back to Indonesian authorities. This action had no practical legal effect, but it did highlight the need for increased dialogue between Papua and Jakarta to resolve the regions outstanding differences.

The government in Jakarta gave the region local autonomy, similar to that given Aceh in 2005 to settle a long-standing insurgency there, but there are significant differences between Aceh and Papua. While the 2005 Aceh autonomy agreement empowered local police to keep the peace, in Papua national security forces from outside the province enforce internal security, one of key the differences between autonomy in Aceh and Papua provinces. By 2011 there were more than 30,000 national police and military stationed in Papua, and are seen by many as an occupying force. Developments affecting Papua, which includes the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, are closely followed by the US Department of State and represent an important aspect of overall relations with Indonesia. The United States recognizes and respects the territorial integrity of Indonesia within its current borders and does not support or condone separatism in Papua, or in any other part of the country. At the same time, the US strongly supports respect for universal human rights within Indonesia, including the right of peaceful assembly, free expression of political views, and the fair and non-discriminatory treatment of ethnic Papuans within Indonesia.

Within this context, the US has consistently encouraged the Indonesian government to work with the indigenous Papuan population to address their grievances, resolve conflicts peacefully, and support development and good governance in the Papuan provinces. The US believed the full implementation of the 2001 Special Autonomy Law for Papua, which emerged as part of Indonesias democratic transition, would help resolve long-standing grievances. The US encouraged the Indonesian government to work with Papuan authorities to discuss ways to empower Papuans and further implement the Special Autonomy provisions, which grant greater authority to Papuans to administer their own affairs.

By 2011 US support for Indonesia's strong stand against Papuan separatists put added pressure on the independence movement to seek a negotiated settlement. But there were concerns that the U.S. is not putting equal pressure on the Indonesian side to peacefully resolve the conflict. While visiting Indonesia, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reiterated the U.S. commitment to closer ties with Indonesia and voiced support for Indonesia's strong stance against a separatist movement in the eastern province of Papua. But U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said the warming relationship had not stopped the U.S. from speaking out against possible human rights abuses by the military in Papua.

In October 2011 police and military units violently dispersed participants in the Third Papua Peoples Congress, a gathering held in Jayapura October 16-19. Activists displayed banned separatist symbols and read out a declaration of independence for the Republic of West Papua on the final day of the gathering. Police fired into the air and detained hundreds of persons, all but six of whom were released the following day. Three persons were found shot and killed in the area. Police spokesmen claimed that the police were equipped only with rubber bullets and other non-lethal ammunition. Police beat many of those detained, and dozens were injured. Six of the leaders of the Third Papua Peoples Congress were convicted on charges of treason and weapons possession and were serving jail terms of approximately three years.

Credible international NGOs estimated that there were more than 80 political prisoners at the end of the year. Most were prosecuted under treason and conspiracy statutes for actions related to the display of banned separatist symbols, and many were serving lengthy sentences. Government officials affirmed publicly that they would not tolerate the display of separatist symbols. A number of Papuan independence activists were in detention or prison for raising a banned separatist flag. Local human rights observers noted that enforcement of flag-raising laws was not always consistent but was widespread across Papua and West Papua provinces. These observers asserted that persons arrested for political offenses often faced harsh treatment, including withholding of necessary medical care.

On 16 March 2012, Jayapura District Court convicted five Papuan independence activists, including Forkorus Yaboisembut and Edison Waromi, and sentenced them to three years in prison for their statements declaring the independence of the Republic of West Papua, display of banned separatist symbols, and leadership roles at the October 2011 Third Papuan Peoples Congress. Defense attorneys alleged during the trial that police interrogated the accused without advice of counsel and beat those held while in pretrial detention.

In 2012 separatist guerillas in Papua killed members of the security forces in several attacks and injured others. Suspected Papuan separatists also killed a number of non-Papuan Indonesian migrants in Papua throughout 2012. On 14 June 2012, unidentified members of the security forces in Jayapura, Papua shot and killed Mako Tabuni, a leader of the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB), which campaigns for self-determination for the provinces of Papua and West Papua. The circumstances surrounding Tabunis death remained unclear, with Indonesian National Police (INP) personnel asserting that Tabuni was shot while resisting arrest and human rights advocates stating that he was shot in the back while attempting to run away. Tabuni believed that he was the target of a government assassination attempt that claimed the life of student activist Tejoli Weya on May 1. Unknown actors shot Weya during a demonstration commemorating the 1963 transfer of Papua and West Papua from the Netherlands to Indonesia.

The remoteness of the area made it difficult to confirm reports of burned villages and civilian deaths. On June 6, following an incident in Wamena in which a child was injured in a traffic accident involving two 756 Infantry Battalion soldiers on a motorcycle, local residents beat the two soldiers, killing First Private Ahmad Sahlan and severely injuring Sergeant Parloi Pardede. Subsequently, 50-100 members of the battalion descended on that neighborhood of Wamena, killing Elinus Yoman, injuring a number of residents, and reportedly burning 87 houses. At years end authorities had not arrested or disciplined any members of the 756 Infantry Battalion for their roles in the incident. The Indonesian Army claimed their soldiers had to defend themselves while attempting to retrieve Sahlans body. A few days following the event, a special reconciliation ceremony occurred that included local villagers, civilian officials, and security forces.

Much of the violence in Papua and West Papua had a link to the Free Papua Movement (OPM) and security force operations against OPM. For example, on August 23, police arrested four persons who they alleged were OPM members as suspects in the August 21killing of police officer Yohan Kasimatau at Enarotali Airport in Paniai. In addition to killings by security forces and OPM, there were a number of violent incidents, including some killings by unknown parties in Papua and West Papua. Unknown attackers, whom government officials and human rights contacts suspected to be Papuan separatists, killed a small number of non-Papuan migrants.

In February 2013 gunmen in Indonesia's Papua province killed eight soldiers during two separate attacks in the region. In the first incident, Army officials say attackers stormed an army post in Puncak Jaya district, shooting two soldiers and leaving one dead. Hours later, officials say the same gunmen attacked a group of soldiers walking near the Ilaga airport, killing seven. Two civilians were shot when soldiers returned fire.

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