Separatist Papuan rebels who killed at least 16 construction workers at a remote jungle camp refused Indonesia’s demand to surrender Wednesday (Dec 12), as claims surfaced that the military murdered civilians after the massacre.
The work camp killings last week were a marked escalation in decades of mostly sporadic skirmishes between poorly armed and disorganised guerrillas and an Indonesian military long accused of gross human rights abuses against civilians.
The rebels said they would continue their insurgency and to fight for an independent Papua, which shares a border with island nation Papua New Guinea, just north of Australia.
“Indonesia came to Papua as a thief – do you think it’s right for a homeowner to surrender to thieves?” rebel spokesman Sebby Sambom told AFP Wednesday.
The former Dutch colony declared itself independent in 1961, but neighbouring Indonesia took control of the region two years later on the condition it hold an independence referendum.
Jakarta annexed mineral-rich Papua in 1969 with a UN-backed vote that was widely seen as a sham.
The rebels’ refusal to surrender comes after Indonesia’s chief security minister Wiranto ruled out any discussions with the National Liberation Army of West Papua (TPNPB).
The group is an armed wing of the independence movement which claimed responsibility for the jungle camp massacre.
“I won’t hold talks with criminals,” Wiranto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told reporters Tuesday in Jakarta.
“Whatever they say is a lie. They’ve committed inhumane crimes.”
The victims, employees of a state-owned contractor, were building bridges and roads in a major infrastructure push for Indonesia’s most impoverished region.
The rebels claimed the project was military controlled and the workers were legitimate targets.
Source: Channel News Asia
Photo: AFP/Sevianto Pakiding