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By Andrew Kilvert

VANIMO, Papua New Guinea (July 10, 1999 - Sydney Morning Herald)---On Wednesday this week, a group of Free Papua Organization guerillas led by Hans Bomay raided a logging camp at Wutung, close to Irian Jaya's border with PNG, where loggers live under plastic tarps surrounded by ruined tropical jungles and malarial sago swamps.

The guerillas took six Indonesian foresters prisoner before disappearing back into the thick scrub. Two Indonesians escaped to raise the alarm.

It is unclear whether Bomay will hold them hostage for ransom in cash or weapons, as he did with a previous group eventually freed by PNG soldiers and police. He has been reported as saying last month that his tactics had changed. "From now on, we don't take hostages," he was quoted as saying. "We just kill people, that's all."

The Bomay group has a history of this sort of thing. For 30 years, since its members fled the Indonesian military control of their highlands home near Wamena, they have been in the Bewani valley in coastal PNG, close to the border, harassing the Indonesians with a meager arsenal of a half a dozen captured guns, bows and arrows and knives made out of cassowary thighbones.

But their relationship with the Indonesian Army has changed in recent years. The Indonesians no longer raid their PNG village refuges or send helicopters across the border.

Instead they provide Bomay's men with food and liquor, and even bring them down to a licensed brothel village on Sentani Lake near the Irian Jayan capital, Jayapura.

The Bomay group no longer seems to target the military on the Indonesian side of the border, only civilians. And yet their attacks, such as the May 5 killing of four Indonesia settlers and the abduction of 11, seem timed to justify an Indonesian security crackdown.

Independence and human rights groups inside Irian Jaya, which separatists call West Papua, now accuse Bomay of being a virtual arm of the Indonesian security system.

Augustus Runtoboi, a spokesman for the Bomay group in this PNG border town, admits to having close ties with Indonesia's military commander in Irian Jaya, Major-General Sembiring. One OPM member said: "The ones who give us supplies are good Kopassus [Indonesian special forces]. They want to be on our side when we have a free West Papua." Bomay himself does not think he has been bought. He still proclaims a nationalism based on Melanesian ethnicity, recounts stories of tribesmen in the Baliem valley being thrown from Indonesian helicopters, and talks of expelling the Indonesians in revenge.

But the life of a jungle-based guerilla is very hard, and after 30 years of fighting and hiding, some whisky and food would be welcome, and it is easy to choose not to bite the hand that feeds. In return, the guerillas are a useful propaganda tool, carrying out their attacks conveniently in the lead-up to periods of political instability and civil unrest in Irian Jaya.

Five days before the big and expected July 1 West Papua Independence day rallies last year, when hopes had just been raised by former president Suharto's resignation, the Bomay group struck in Arso and killed three Javanese people with machetes. The killings were used to justify a crackdown on a protest by the territory's small, educated middle class, who pose the real threat to Indonesian rule.

The maneuver has also drawn in the PNG Defense Force, which took part in a joint operation to free the hostages seized in Bomay's attack this May. The PNG force's quick and effective rescue drew great praise from the Indonesian military.

PNG intelligence officials are touchy about the closeness between the PNGDF and the Indonesian bureaucracy. When I returned through Vanimo recently from Irian Jaya, I was detained by officials of PNG's National Intelligence Organization for nearly 24 hours in a hotel room and interrogated. Much of the questioning was aimed at probing what Australia knew of this new relationship. In a later interview with PNG Department of Foreign Affairs officials, it became clear they too were curious about details of the new relationship between Indonesia's armed forces and the PNGDF.

KABAR IRIAN ("Irian News")


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