Jakarta, Indonesia – Significant demonstrations in Indonesia’s West Papua area have turned violent as thousands of protesters, angered by alleged police abuse against ethnic Papuan students, burned public facilities and blocked roads.
In West Papua province’s capital of Manokwari, protesters burned the parliamentary developing and regional retailers, according to police and pictures obtained by Al Jazeera.
A developing previously occupied by West Papua Provincial Governor Dominggus Mandacan was also burned, Indonesia’s national police spokesman, Dedi Prasetyo, told Al Jazeera.
There have been no instant reports of casualties. The demonstrations are nonetheless ongoing.
“For now, we are nonetheless focusing on collecting the information on the casualties and attempting to calm down the masses,” he told Al Jazeera.
Photos obtained by Al Jazeera showed the demonstrators, which includes several young students, waving the “Morning Star” flag, which is observed as a symbol of self-rule by Papuans.
Kantor DPRP di Manokwari dibakar. pic.twitter.com/Ii1AzSneSS
— febriana firdaus (@febrofirdaus) August 19, 2019
“We are not white and red, we are morning star,” the protesters shouted, in reference to the Indonesian flag and the Papuan banner. Folks carrying the banned flag could face arrest and imprisonment of up to 15 years.
There are also demonstrations reported in the city of Jayapura, the capital and biggest city of Papua, the country’s easternmost province. Hundreds of folks riding their motorbikes have been observed joining the protest.
Al Jazeera also received reports that angry protesters forcibly took down the Indonesian flag outdoors the workplace of Papua Provincial Governor Lukas Enembe.
Indonesia’s West Papua area is divided into two provinces, West Papua and Papua.
The demonstration on Monday erupted following the arrest final week of ethnic Papuan students living in Surabaya and Malang in Java island.
The students have been accused of throwing the Indonesian flag into a sewer – allegations that they have denied in an interview with the regional media, Suara Papua.
Responding to the report, the police locked down the dormitory of the Papuan students and fired tear gas to clear their rooms.
The Indonesia-primarily based news site, Tirto, and other news agencies reported that the students have been then subjected to racial abuse. They have been reportedly named “monkeys” by bystanders, as they have been rounded up by police.
The students have been released from police detention on Sunday. But by then, tensions have currently risen, with the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) calling on Papuans to join the protest against the government.
The area was a Dutch colony till the early 1960s when Indonesia took manage, cementing its rule with a controversial referendum that followed.
The government in Jakarta maintains that West Papua area, which occupies the western half of the island of Papua New Guinea, is Indonesian due to the fact it was portion of the Dutch East Indies which types the basis of the country’s contemporary-day borders.
A low-level armed rebellion by indigenous Papuans, who now make up about half the population immediately after years of migration by folks from other components of Indonesia, has been rumbling ever given that.
West Papua is the poorest area in the nation, and there have been allegations of human rights violation taking location given that then.
In December, violence also erupted in the province, killing at least 17 folks and triggering a military crackdown.
Some 35,000 civilians have been forced from their homes as the safety forces try to flush out the rebels from the forested mountains.