SPECIAL REPORT AND UPDATE
by Nick Chesterfield at westpapuamedia.info
December 16, 2011
Harrowing accounts of terror and intimidation are emerging from villagers and human rights workers in the remote Paniai district in West Papua overnight, as a massive Indonesian military assault against National Liberation Army guerrillas continues.
Local human rights and church sources are reporting that ordinary villagers are being subjected to significant human rights abuses by a combined Indonesian police and military force, and have called for immediate international intervention in West Papua to stop the violence.
Over four full strength combat battalions of Indonesian army (TNI) Kostrad commandos from Battalion 753, Brimob paramilitary police, and elite counter-terrorism troops from Detachment 88 – all units armed, trained, and supplied by the Australian Government – were deployed in an offensive to surround the headquarters of the Paniai Free Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-OPM), under the command of General Jhon Yogi.
Punitive village burnings and raids are continuing in remote villages around the TPN/OPM headquarters of Markas Eduda. At the time of writing, seventy-five houses, six schools, and about 25 other buildings have been recorded as burnt down in a total of 27 villages by Indonesian security forces.
Eighteen people are now confirmed dead – fifteen from gunshot wounds, and three refugees who allegedly succumbed to starvation in the so-called care centres under the control of security forces. The victims’ names from the attack in Eduda are:
- Tapupai Gobay (30) was shot in the chest.
- Tawe Bunai Awe (30) head crushed*.
- Uwi Gobay (35) was shot in the abdomen.
- Wate Nawipa (25) was shot in the back.
- Martinus Gobay (29) head crushed*.
- Owdei Yeimo (35) was shot in the back.
- Ruben Gobay (25) was shot in the abdomen.
- Paul Gobay (42) was shot in the abdomen.
- Bernadus Yogi (23) was shot in the chest.
- Demianus Yogi (15) was shot in the back.
- Simon Kogoya (40) was shot in the abdomen.
- Simon Yogi (30) was shot in the head.
- Luke Kudiai (25) was shot in the chest.
- Alfius Magai (20) head crushed*
Note: those with “head crushed” allegedly sustained these fatal injuries through severe beatings with rifle butts and “boot stamping”, according to sources
- Paschal Kudiai (15) hit by a bullet in the head.
- Martinus Kudiai (30) was shot in the hand.
- David Mote (40) was shot in the thigh.
- Amandus Kudiai (43) was shot in the arm.
- Yohan Yogi (21) was shot in the leg.
- Mon Yogi (20) was shot in the back.
Credible reports have also confirmed that two civilian “company” helicopters were provided to Security forces, and were allegedly used to drop live grenades and chemical dispersal weapons onto villages surrounding Eduda, and strafe villages with sniper and machine-gun fire on December 13, 14, and 15. Several independent witnesses have claimed to West Papua Media, and reported elsewhere across social media, that the helicopters are well known in the area for local non-military operations.
Witnesses interviewed by local human rights workers have claimed that at 0800 local time on December 13, the Company helicopter launched CS gas salvos into the village of Markas Eduda, the TPN headquarters, to flush out villagers and guerrillas. According to a separate account sent to West Papua Media by TPN/OPM sources, the helicopters landed troops and occupied Eduda for most of the day, with guerrillas taking to forests in retreat. In retaliation, TPN/OPM fighters shot at the helicopters, unsuccessfully, and several hours of intense fighting ensued which was suspended when Free Papua fighters witnessed many village houses and schools being simultaneously burnt in the surrounding area. According to the TPN/OPM source, villages were set on fire around Eduda and gunshots were heard for the rest of the day and through the night. Free Papua fighters have retreated to the forest and are awaiting orders for their next moves, according to the source.
Villagers from across Paniai are continuing to be displaced by the operations, forced to flee en masse into areas around Enaratoli, on the opposite side of Lake Paniai. As reported on December 14 by West Papua Media, over 131 villages have been abandoned causing at least 10800 Paniai villagers to flee the military operations.
Church sources have further reported that refugees seeking shelter in the Enaratoli area are enduring worsening conditions without any relief. Armed Indonesian security forces have established a police supervised secure “Care Centre” at Uwatawogi Hall in Enaratoli, and have crammed into it 1715 people from Kopabutu and Dagouto villages. According to local activists in reports to West Papua Media, local residents are being threatened with arrest and beatings if they try to provide detainees with adequate humanitarian relief. Police are also preventing people held at the hall from leaving for food or sanitation needs, according to sources. At the time of writing, three people have died at the “care Centre” since December 9 from Diarrhoea. They are :
- OTOLINCEA DEGEI age 2 years , died 8:20pm, 9/12/11;
- YULIMINA GOBAI Age 4, died 3pm, 14/12/2011;
- ANNA DEGEI Age 47, died 1030pm, 14/12/2011.
No food, sanitation or medical aid has been made available by any government agency to give relief to this large number of internally displaced people.
Over 9000 refugees are either hiding in the forest or seeking shelter with their own extended families in the region area. Those with their families are considered safe, however their needs and conditions are difficult to monitor and assess given their isolation
Local teachers have also been in contact with West Papua Media’s stringers. Since 27 November 2011, teaching and learning activities have been suspended indefinitely in all village schools surrounding Markas Eduda. Schools such as SD YPPK in Badao Dei, Yimouto, and Obayauweta villages have been suspended, as has Primary, Junior High, “shop” (trade school) and Elementary Instruction in the towns of Dagouto, and Uwani. The students of these schools have been evacuated with their parents.
A teacher in junior YPPGI Uwani said while repression was occurring in the villages that: “For while we have closed the schools, because school children are frightened and fled with their parents. In addition, we as teachers do not feel safe to make teaching and learning activities. All the teachers have fled Paniai district, and to Nabire. “
On December 15, the army / police battalions have returned to the villages of Uwamani, Dei and Obaipugaida to prepare a major attack for a new phase of the campaign. It is believed strongly by local activists that the “company” helicopter will still be used in addition to Unconfirmed reports have been received by West Papua Mediathat the Indonesian arsenal against civilians in Paniai includes one Mil Mi-24 SuperHind gunship, one of two usually stationed near Jayapura.
West Papua National Committee (KNPB) activists in Paniai reported on December 15 that after the assaults on villages, the Indonesian military forces are now arresting, intimidating and carrying out interrogation on all residents across the districts of Toko, Kopabaida and Uwamani. According the KNPB, Indonesian police have arrested scores of children and adults, and are conducting brutal and physical interrogations and questioning from 11.00 am until the end of the day
The offensive was ongoing throughout December 15, with Indonesian security forces opening fire in many locations around Eduda. Overnight, from 0200 to 0600, heavy gunfire erupted across the Degeuwo River valley. Human rights sources in villages and also with refugees conveyed reports that people were being shot at by snipers if they were moving anywhere after dark, even to collect, food, water, or to secure pigs. It is not known how many people were killed during the night, but local source are expecting the toll to rise.
According to a report provided tonight by a local pilot, Indonesian security forces shot eleven times into houses in the village of Gekoo, where mourners were gathering for a the funeral of a local man who died from illness. Villagers alleged that some bullets even landed in their cooking fires, exploding their food pots.
Witnesses reported a series of helicopter raids from 11am on December 15, with helicopters being used to machine-gun the villages of Obaiyepa and Uwaman. Human rights workers have been unable to access these areas to see if any casualties were sustained.
Helicopters landed at Eduda ceremony ground 11 times from 11:00 to 13:00 hours, and residents suspect logistics, ammunition and additional forces were being deployed.
The area around Paniai has been long subject to conflict and heavy Indonesian military offensives against civilians, however in recent months the Indonesian police have taken charge of punitive operations against West Papuans harbouring pro-independence sympathies. The conflict has recently escalated over land rights and the control of local gold mining operations, with Brimob deeply involved in both joint venture security, and direct involvement in gold businesses and associated activities. The Australian gold mining company Paniai Gold is also operating in the Degeuwo River region.
Civilians in the foothills are in panic and reliving the trauma of past operations, according to the report from a local pilot. “They are concerned emotions again will open in Wegeuto of the 1982 war Memoria Passionis (memory of suffering) and again when the Army conducted ongoing military operations (DOM – Daerah Operasi Militer) from 1989-1993 across the Badauwo area, near Eduda, ” the source said via email. He explained that during the last DOM period the army accused and stigmatised civilians as being members of the TPN-OPM, and subsequently tortured thousands of villagers. Human rights sources at the time documented villagers being waterboarded / tortured for 24 hours; residents’ houses burned, raped girls and married women, extrajudicial killings, burning off fingers, moustaches and beards, pulling fingernails and quartering villagers with armoured vehicles. Troops also conducted burning and destroying food gardens, killing livestock and pets, and fouling water supplies.
Residents are concerned that the current angry and emotional behaviour by the TNI-police toward TPN / OPM will be vented on civilians living on the slope of the hamlet Wegeuto especially, directly adjacent to Markas Eduda. In a message delivered to West Papua Media local villagers have pleaded for International Advocacy to get Military and Police immediately withdrawn from Eduda and Paniai in general.
Much trauma is being felt by civilians across Paniai as a result of the offensive. Independent journalist Sonny Dogopia, from Papuan Voices , interviewed local villagers by telephone on December 14. Magda Tekege, a housewife from Deiyai District, said civil society is very scared and depressed. ” Here also TNI / Police beat us and put us under surveillance, and are one full alert status, ” she explained. Deiyai Magda called the situation unusual , “this is probably due to invasion by TNI / police in Paniai, therefore Deiyai also suffer the effects.”
Reports from Tuesday described the exercises that the Australian trained, funded and armed Brimob Gegana unit, upon arriving in Enaratoli proceeded to take over the streets immediately, causing normal town life to be immediately disrupted as local people emptied the streets to hide.
On December 6, Human rights, church sources and local activists had independently claimed that 542 people have been forcibly evacuated by troops from the Special Gegana Brimob “Counter” terrorist police unit. The villages of Dagouto and Kopabatu and surrounding hamlets in the Dagoutu Paniai district were evicted after the Gegana unit decided it wanted to expand a new headquarters facility to deploy in the offensive against Jhon Yogi, the local leader of the armed guerrilla unit of the National Liberation Army (TPN-OPM).
The Gegana unit, a specialised elite anti-terrorist unit of the Indonesian police has been deployed heavily across Papua to crackdown on pro-independence activists engaged in non-violent resistance, as well as to eliminate the armed struggle groups. Gegana is one of several elite Indonesian police units that receives arms, funding, and training from the Australian Government, and was blamed on December 3 for burning down a church and school in Wandenggobak, in the highland regency of Puncak Jaya.
As this article was going to press, an update was received from a trusted human rights worker in Paniai. “At 2300 in the evening, Brimob Coconut Battalion 2 burned down buildings of Paniai Districts’ tourism assets, located in Bukit Dupia, in the same location as the Regent’s residence. This evening in Paniai the situation is very tense”. TPN fighters reportedly have returned fire on the attack and heavy fighting is still occurring,
The situation is ongoing and developing and West Papua Media will continue to closely monitor events.
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