Wenda warns over massive ‘demon troops’ military crackdown in Papua

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk Indonesia is unleashing a massive military crackdown in West Papua with the use of “demon troops” and spurning human rights, warns a Papuan leader. Benny Wenda, interim president of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP), said in a statement today that cutting off the internet was a repeat of

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

Indonesia is unleashing a massive military crackdown in West Papua with the use of “demon troops” and spurning human rights, warns a Papuan leader.

Benny Wenda, interim president of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP), said in a statement today that cutting off the internet was a repeat of the “Papuan spring” uprising of August-September 2019 when the Indonesian military concealed bloodshed and massacres.

He claimed the situation was shaping up as the “biggest military operation since the late 1970s”.

“I issue this urgent warning [to] the world – huge Indonesian military operations, some of the largest in years, are imminent in West Papua,” Wenda said.

“The internet is being cut off, hundreds more troops are being deployed, and we are receiving reports that West Papuan civilians are fleeing from their villages in Intan Jaya, Puncak Jaya, and Nduga regencies.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered a “crackdown” in West Papua following the killing of an Indonesian intelligence officer, Brigadier General I Gusti Putu Danny Karya Nugraha, in clashes last week.

The People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker, Bambang Soesatyo, has said that they will “discuss human rights matters later” after eliminating the Papuan resistance movement.

“Just last week 400 new specialist soldiers, known as ‘demon troops’, were deployed to Nduga regency, where more than 50,000 people have already been displaced since December 2018.

Recent reports said more than 21,000 Indonesian troops had been deployed to the West Papua region in the past three years.

Internet shutdown cover
The internet shutdown provided cover for the military operations.

Benny Wenda
Exiled West Papuan leader Benny Wenda on a visit to New Zealand in 2013. Image: Del Abcede

“The Jala Mangkara Detachment (Denjaka), elite troops of the Indonesian Navy, are being deployed. I myself witnessed the consequences of these military operations when I was a child, seeing my village bombed and my family killed,” Wenda said.

“I had to flee and live in the bush for six years. It makes my heart cry that this is about to happen to so many more of my people.”

These military operations follow the Indonesian government deciding to label West Papuan resistance groups as ‘terrorists’, a move condemned by Amnesty and Indonesia’s own human rights commission.

“Those in West Papua who take up arms are not terrorists. They are not connected to a religious ideology or international funding networks,” said Wenda.

“They are just defending their land against an illegal occupier. They have little knowledge of the outside world, they are fighting barefoot to defend their people against a modern military.

“Maybe a few hundred of them face an army of over 20,000 troops, including D88, trained in how to kill my people for years by the West.

Indonesian soldiers patrol a Papuan village
Indonesian soldiers patrol a Papuan village. Image: ULMWP

Only ‘state terrorism’
“There is only one actor – the Indonesian state that has been killing pastors and high school children for political purposes, who has driven over 400 women and children to their death in the bush.

“Indonesian police and military this year have beaten three brothers to death in a hospital, executed teenagers, and killed peaceful activists in prison.

“The new military operations are already striking fear into West Papuans across the country. This is state terrorism.”

Wenda said the killing of the Indonesian intelligence general was the justification that Indonesia needed to carry out these operations.

“How can the killing of a leading official in an occupying army justify killing civilians and attacking villages? The Indonesian military often carries out attacks and blames it on West Papuans in order to justify its operations.

“They never provide any evidence of who carried out the killing.”

Wenda asked why Indonesia had refused to allow international journalists into West Papua to investigate these issues.

‘Desperate to hide killings’
““Why does it ban human rights monitors, including even the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights?” asked Wenda.

“Indonesia is so desperate to hide its killing and torture that it is willing to defy the will of 84 international states calling for the UN to be allowed access. Indonesia has got away with impunity for the 1977-79 genocidal military operations, the 1998 Biak Massacre, the 2014 Paniai Massacre, and so many more [human rights violations].”

More than 500,000 Papuans had already been killed, claimed Wenda, who warned that the number was going to rise even further – “a genocide is in motion”.

“This is my cry to the world, to the UN, to the Pacific Islands Forum, to Melanesian leaders, to the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP), and to the UK, Australian, New Zealand, Dutch and US governments,” said Wenda.

“We are about to witness another massacre in West Papua. You have the power to intervene and help us find a peaceful solution to the crisis.”

Indonesian troop build-up
The Indonesian troop build-up in the capital Jayapura during March 2021. Image: RNZ

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