Indonesia (West Papua)


Conflict Summary

A low-intensity separatist conflict has been simmering in Papua, on the western half of the island of New Guinea, for more than 50 years. Armed mainly with vintage rifles and bows and arrows, rebels from the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (Free Papua Movement, OPM) have been unable to achieve secession in the face of heavily-armed Indonesian security forces. However separatist sentiment and support for the rebels is widespread among indigenous Papuans. Papua, a former Dutch colony, was being prepared for independence when the Netherlands was persuaded to cede the region to Indonesia in 1963. A widely-criticised UN-backed vote in 1969 then confirmed Papua’s status as an Indonesian province. With the resource-rich region home to the world’s largest gold and copper mine – operated at Grasberg by US firm Freeport-McMoRan – Jakarta has maintained a strong armed presence. Its troops have frequently been accused of human-rights abuses. Ongoing migration from other parts of Indonesia also means that Papuans now only account for about 50% of the population. A law granting Papua ‘special autonomy’ was passed in 2001, but poor local governance and corruption have seen little improvement made to levels of poverty in the region.