4 Sep 2002

Expert says Indonesian army could be responsible for killings

11:48 am on 4 September 2002

An expert on the Freeport mine in the Indonesian province of Papua says she doesn't believe a militant separatist group, the OPM, is responsible for the deaths of three civilians.

The Indonesian army or TNI, is blaming guerillas associated with the OPM for the deaths of two Americans and a Papuan.

But, Australian academic and writer, Dr Denise Leith, says the OPM would get very little benefit from the killings.

She says it's far more likely to have been the military who were involved.

"The military often create incidents to either justify its presence and an increase in military operations in an area or it will threaten foreign companies if they don't behave in a way the military are happy with."

Dr Leith says there appears to have been a change in the relationship in recent weeks with the head of Freeport security threatened several times by the TNI.

She says local sources suggest this is because Freeport has stopped payments to the army.

Dr Leith believes this follows the recent introduction of the U.S. Corporate Fraud Law which holds chief executive officers personally responsible for actions within the company.

Freeport has always denied making any payments to the Indonesian military.