Indonesia’s Heavy-Handed Approach in West Papua Is Backfiring

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A Papuan activist whose face is painted with the colors of the separatist flag takes part in a rally near the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Aug. 22, 2019 (AP photo by Dita Alangkara).

In late 2018, a violent attack in Indonesia brought sudden, global attention to West Papua, a region whose fight for independence was by then decades old. The attack targeted construction workers who were building a stretch of the controversial Trans-Papua highway, a project the central Indonesian government has said will improve quality of life, but that many locals oppose. By the end, 17 civilians and Indonesian military members had been killed; a separatist militant group, the National Liberation Army of West Papua, later claimed responsibility.  It was the deadliest attack Indonesia had seen for several years—and it was a sign of […]

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