The often violent fight for West Papuan independence from Indonesia may be one of the most significant conflicts in South East Asia – but it’s also one of the least reported.
This week on Dateline, Mark Davis gains incredibly rare access to West Papua to test the Indonesian government’s claims that it’s softened its stance against West Papuan activists and that conditions have improved in the notoriously volatile region.
Forty-five years on from the start of West Papua’s uneasy union with Jakarta, Davis unearths stories of recent beatings, torture and killing of independence protesters.
His guides are two former members of the armed West Papuan resistance movement – Franz Albert Joku and Nick Messet – who have now taken Indonesian citizenship and work as advisors to the Indonesian government.
They believe the fight for independence has failed and that the way forward is to work for increased rights for ethnic Papuans under Indonesian rule.
“Things have largely improved”, Joku says. “Independence is not necessarily the answer”.
Davis breaks away from his minders, but discovers he’s being closely followed by the military.
He nonetheless manages to smuggle a camera into a prison to hear from West Papuan political prisoners, including Filep Karma who was jailed with a 15 year sentence for simply raising the Morning Star flag.
“Many Indonesians have been killed, attacked and that’s been hidden by the Indonesian government”, Karma claims.
Davis puts these allegations of ongoing human rights abuses to the Police Chief of Papua Province and Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.
See the full report on Dateline at 8.30pm this Tuesday, 3 June.