Armed conflict in West Papua continues: Government deploys 500 soldiers to the central highlands

The Indonesian government has deployed 500 additional soldiers of the Yonif Raider 432 Waspada Setiajaya Unit to West Papua. According to the national media, the non-organic troops should help the local governments to stabilize the situation and secure infrastructure as well as other development projects in West Papua’s central highlands, which are known as the stronghold of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB). Meanwhile, the troops have arrived in Jayapura (see intro image) from where they will be flown to 20 military outposts in the regencies Yalimo, Yahukimo, Nduga, Mamberamo, Lanny Jaya and Tolikara. The non-organic troops are supposed to stay in West Papua between nine and twelve months.

Human rights observers fear that the deployment of non-organic troops, whose members are not familiar with the customs and the culture of indigenous Papuans, will inevitably result in a growing number of human rights violations in the central highlands. Many indigenous Papuans in the central highlands have been internally displaced or have become victims of torture, enforced disappearance or extrajudicial killings during security force operations.

The reinforcement of the military with personnel in the central highlands is part of the government’s strategy to demonstrate military strength. The conflict situation in the different highland regencies has aggravated in the past weeks. On 5 September 2020, TPN PB members attacked a military post at the new market in Kenyam, Nduga Regency. The TPN PB claims that eight military members were killed during the attack. Witnesses in Kenyam confirmed the attack, while military representatives denied the incident. A second armed attack on a military post occurred in the village of Mamba, Intan Jaya Regency, on 14 September 2020. According to the news outlet Suara Papua, three military members were reportedly killed during the armed clashes. Other sources reported that two migrants - both civilians - were injured during the clash.