Conflict & Justice

Deaths fail to deter autonomy protests in Indonesia's remote Papua province


A Papuan man with his face painted with the 'free Papua' flag takes part in a protest in Jakarta on December 1, 2008. Thousands also protested amid tight security across Indonesia's vast Papua region to call for independence from Jakarta.



Since shaking off colonial rule, Indonesia has struggled to tame separatist movements across its sprawling islands.

But even after dousing separatist flames through the decades, there remains one glowing ember: Papua.

In Papua, thousands are protesting for autonomy in rallies that have left several dead, according to the Jakarta Globe. The military, the Globe reports, is also claiming rebel snipers shot dead an Indonesian soldier at his post and started small gun battles.

Native Papuans are known for their indigenous piercings and feathery headdresses. (One jungle tribe, the Mek, was documented by the Discovery Chanel via two white Westerners in codpieces.)

Many Papuans have long desired a state independent from Indonesia, accused of simply annexing their native land.

State authorities have resisted this sentiment with torture -- caught here on tape -- and even beatings for raising the Papuan independence flag.

The new protests are an attempt to call a referendum on independence. Indonesia's foreign minister, however, told the Jakarta Globe that their bid for a separate state is unlikely to find international backing.