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Violent Protests Continue in Indonesia’s Papua, Officials Reject Call for Independence

Police officers stand guard during a protest in Mimika, Papua, Indonesia, August 21, 2019 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. (Antara Foto/Sevianto Pakiding via Reuters)
Violent Protests Continue in Indonesia’s Papua, Officials Reject Call for Independence
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Protesters in Indonesia’s Papua area burned buildings on Thursday and forced the power company to cut off electricity in the city of Jayapura.

The day’s events continue nearly two weeks of unrest in Papua. The demonstrations began after videos of security forces calling Papuan students “monkeys” and “dogs” appeared on the internet.

In addition to protesting the comments, some demonstrators are calling for independence for Papua. The area is a former Dutch colony in the western part of New Guinea. It became part of Indonesia in 1969 but is ethnically and culturally different from much of the rest of the country. A separatist movement has long been active in the area.

But Indonesia’s security chief said this week that the country would not hold a vote on Papua’s independence.

A statement by security chief Wiranto – who uses only one name – appeared on the news website He reportedly said, “Demands for a referendum, I think, is out of place. Demands for referendum I think must not be mentioned. Why? Because the unity of the Republic of Indonesia is final.”

The state news agency said police used tear gas against demonstrators who set fire to cars and threw stones at shops and offices. Demonstrators have also set fire to a local parliament office. And the state energy company has closed several gas stations because of the protest.

A national military spokesman said more than 1,000 people had taken part in the protest. At least one Indonesian soldier and two civilians have been killed in the clashes.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Kelly Jean Kelly adapted this story for Learning English based on reports by Reuters and the Associated Press. Ashley Thompson was the editor.