Indonesian wrath causes exodus of Papuansby Dr Greg PoulgrainNews Weekly
, February 24, 2001
Hundreds of West Papuans are being forced out of their homes in Irian Jaya by Indonesian 'special operation' Kopassus troops in retaliation for the deaths of four soldiers killed recently at Betaf, a coastal town 135 km west of the capital, Jayapura.
This exodus comes after troop reinforcements were rushed to the area. The build-up included 200 Kopassus 'red-beret' troops and contingents of 'green-beret' Kostrad strategic reserve force, the Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) and even the 'pink-beret' Marines.
Many Papuan refugees are attempting to reach Jayapura by boat.
Because of the four fatalities caused by "Papuan freedom fighters" on 3 February, Kopassus troops are "blind with rage", local Church sources said, after helping to negotiate the return of weapons seized by Papuans in the attack last week.
From Jakarta, an editorial in the newspaper Indonesian Observer (February 6) offered a stinging reminder of the Kopassus fatalities :
"It is incredible that members of the infamous fighting unit trained in jungle warfare and equipped with the most up-to-date weapons were unable to defend themselves against an attack by Papuan freedom fighters and found their death in the jungles of Irian Jaya, so far from home."
With this additional incentive, Kopassus was determined to wreak vengeance on the Papuan population who remain in the area and troops threatened to burn down the villages of Danken and Wenyem, according to sources. Papuan school teachers, hospital workers and government employees fled for their lives because those who remained would be regarded as Papuan independence fighters.
The people in this region, with Sarmi, Betaf and Bonggo as the main centres, have suffered hundreds of casualties in previous conflicts with the Indonesian army. The infamous reputation of the army in this region, however, has come from previously destroying houses and food sources, and the kidnapping and raping of local women.
Consequently, this region became a focus for Papuan nationalism during the surge of pro-independence activities last year. At Bonggo, according to reports, thousands of young Papuans received basic training under the leadership of Hans Yoweni for a Papuan National Army (TPN). However, when "Special Autonomy" is introduced by Jakarta in May 2001, defence will not be regionalised, so the army argues the present campaign does not contravene Indonesian law.