14 May 2003

Human rights campaigner says more than 1300 flee Indonesian army in Papua

5:46 pm on 14 May 2003

A Papuan human rights organisation has told the United Nations Working Group on Minorities that a military action in the Indonesian province has left 13 hundred and 68 people displaced.

Theo Sitokdana of Elsham says the army exercise, begun after a raid on an armoury near Wamena in April, has seen five villages burnt down, livestock destroyed and the inhabitants forced to flee to the forests.

He says these people are internally displaced and are unlikely to receive help from the Indonesian Government.

Mr Sitokdana also says that there is an increasing possibility of conflict because of the arrival of the Laskar Jihad and the formation of armed, East Timor style, militias.

He says Elsham has documentary evidence that the military is behind the establishment of the militias.

And Mr Sitokdana says Jakarta has created protest and widespread confusion with its announcement that it will split the province into three.

He says this decision, as with so many before it, was taken without consulting the Papuan people, as though they did not exist.

And he says one consequence of the split is that more troops would arrive in Papua because each province would have its own regional military command.