(above photo originally found on Tabloid Jubi)
Hundreds of citizens engaged in peaceful assembly were arrested in several major cities in West Papua over the past few days. The demonstrations were organized in support of the historic meeting of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua in the UK Parliament on May 3rd, as well as in support of West Papua’s bid to become a full member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).
West Papuan demonstrators are again demanding an internationally monitored referendum to allow citizens of West Papua to vote on their own future. Currently West Papua is a province of Indonesia, but many Papuans regard Indonesia as an illegal occupying force. Under Indonesian rule, indigenous West Papuans are often marginalized and mistreated, and they would like the opportunity to rule themselves.
According to KNPB (West Papua National Committee), riot police including members of the Densus 88 anti-terrorism squad attacked a student dormitory at Cenderawasih University (UnCen) at 2am last night to catch students by surprise and preemptively arrest many of them ahead of today’s planned demonstrations. KNPB reports that 178 people were arrested at the university. There were also several other reports of security sweeps during the night intended to intimidate activists and derail any plans for demonstrations today.
In Jayapura, hundreds of demonstrators were herded onto a field at Brimob (police) headquarters and stripped of their shirts and shoes, and left to bake in the sweltering hot sun. Journalists have been barred from entering the facility and taking photographs, but reporters from Tabloid Jubi were still able to get the above photo. Demonstrators were detained under similar circumstances in several other locations as well.
KNPB is reporting that already 1,700 arrests have been made in the last 6 days.
The demonstrations have been supported by an international campaign on social media using the hashtag #LetWestPapuaVote, led by Benny Wenda’s Free West Papua campaign.
For regular LIVE UPDATES on the demonstrations in West Papua, visit West Papua Media.