Papua killings seen as serious escalation, says academic

Updated at 2:38 pm on 25 February 2013

A leading researcher on West Papua says last week's fatal shootings in Puncack Jaya represent a serious escalation in tensions in Indonesia's Papua region.

Eight Indonesian soldiers and four civilians were killed in two separate shooting incidents in the remote Highlands regency, for which military chiefs have blamed the separatist OPM Free West Papua Movement.

Following the shootings, Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the government would use a welfare-based approach rather than a military one to keep the peace in Papua.

But Jim Elmslie of Sydney University's West Papua Project fears the violence will grow.

"The whole province of West Papua is highly militarised now which might well have helped to lead to this escalation in the conflict. Obviously, there are a lot more weapons floating around and more dark forces that are not under the government control or are conducting black operations. I think the President's words probably don't carry much weight in the jungles of West Papua."

Jim Elmslie

Next story in Pacific: Chinese military aid to PNG for troop carriers, armoured cars and uniforms