Killing Spree in the Highlands



According to human rights groups, and numerous sources with deep knowledge about the development on the ground, the number of internally displaced people (IDP) in West Papua’s central highlands continue to swell in the wake of ongoing clashes between Indonesian forces and the West Papua Liberation Army (TPNPB). 


Statistics from Human Rights Monitor now states that more than 60,000 IDPs are on the run all over West Papua without any government aid in sight provided by the Indonesian state. It’s not a new situation for civilian West Papuans, though, and certainly not in the central highlands: throughout the years Indonesian military offensives have occurred without any consideration for civilian suffering or long-term commitments to displaced families.


Instead, these latest military offensives have resulted in “cleared areas” that soon afterwards have been turned into mining sites. The development then continue the circle of despair by “paving the way for further violations of human rights in West Papua,” according to Theo Hasegem, a prominent human rights worker in the central highlands.


The armed conflict in West Papua has for decades been subjected to a minimum of media coverage and political attention, both due to Indonesia’s barred doors to its occupied “easternmost province” for U.N. inspectors, independent journalists, and human rights workers — and Jakarta’s importance to Western powers in terms of financial growth.


Losing West Papua would strike a tremendous economic blow to the Indonesian state, and Jakarta’s occupation over western New Guinea, thanks to a fraudulent U.N.-approved “referendum” (“The Act of Free Choice”), secures a cheap and accessible mineral treasure for Indonesia’s economic partners.


West Papua is not only the home of the Freeport Mine, the planet’s largest open-pit mine and shelter to the biggest gold and copper deposits in the world, it’s also an ever-expanding frontier of mining projects that are essential to the global “green revolution.”


Deep in the highlands of the enclosed West Papua, thousands of civilians are on the run from the ongoing clashes between liberation forces and the Indonesian army. Few outside of the occupied western New Guinea advocates for their rights, or demand that Indonesia hand back the lands, resources, and waters that with the help of the Western powers was illegally taken away from them in the 1960s.


On 12 June 2023 three West Papuans were found guilty of treason and sentenced to long prison sentences. The “treason” in this case was the participation in a commemoration of an anniversary of a proclaimed independent republic: West Papua. Sadly, few media outlets reported on this “Kafkaesque” criminal case or has investigated Indonesia’s abysmal human rights record in West Papua.


“It’s as if we don’t even exist,” a civilian source tells me. “And soon enough, if Indonesia is allowed to continue its ethnic cleansing here, we won’t.”


© 2023 Klas Lundström.


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