20 Dec 2004

Papua churchman says no truth in Indonesian claim about rebels in villages

4:36 pm on 20 December 2004

A church leader in the Indonesian province of Papua says the military is falsely claiming that separatists are being harboured in villages in the highlands region of Puncak Jaya.

The Reverend Socrataz Sofyan Yoman, who is the President of the West Papuan Baptist Church, says the international community needs to step into help end a military operation that has left at least 23 dead from starvation.

He says the actual figure is believed to be higher but churches and aid groups can not access the region.

The Reverend Yoman says thousands of villagers have been forced to flee into the forest.

"The military burning their farms, burning their houses, their church, their schools and claiming that it is done by the OPM, but no, done by the military."

Rev Yoman says, despite the military claims, there are no OPM rebels in the region.

The Indonesian Human Rights Committee has written to New Zealand foreign minister, Phil Goff, saying New Zealand should offer aid immediately and calling on President Yudhoyono to ensure the aid reaches the starving people.