CHURCH LEADERS CITE OPPRESSION IN WEST PAPUA

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By Joe Collins

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (The Independent, Jan. 25) – One year ago, 43 West Papuan asylum seekers arrived in North Queensland fleeing Indonesian oppression. Today in West Papua, the oppression continues.

Reports from human rights groups and church leaders in West Papua have said that the Indonesian military have been conducting operations in the Punjak Jaya region of West Papua causing thousands of local people to flee to the bush for their safety. These military operations are a response to the killing of two military personal near the town of Mulia in December 2006.

In the past the military have used incidents such as the killing of the two military personal as an excuse to crack down on what they term to be separatists groups. However, these military operations have resulted in the killing of civilians, the burning of villages, the killing of livestock and local people fleeing to the bush for safety.

Church leaders have reported that the military have cordoned off the region with no civilian access allowed. As the local people are afraid to go and work in their food gardens many could face starvation.

Joe Collins of the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) said the Australian government should be doing all it can to urge Jakarta to halt this military operation and control its military in the territory to avoid civilian casualties. We note that in the US State Department’s 2005 Human Rights report on Indonesia (Released 2006) it states, "There was evidence that the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) considered anyone killed by its forces in conflict areas to be an armed rebel".

AWPA hopes that the Australian Parliament will not ratify the new treaty with Indonesian . Any treaty with Indonesia at the present time is premature, including given any aid or training to the Indonesian military in any form. The Australian government should send a parliamentary delegation to investigate what is actually going on in West Papua, Collins said.

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