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2001 - Post Special Autonomy Developments

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 were 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.

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.

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 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 Indonesia’s 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.

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Page last modified: 20-12-2016 19:41:49 ZULU