Indonesia shuts down Internet in Papua to stem unrest

Papuans holding posters during a protest in Timika, on Aug 21, 2019. PHOTO: AP

JAKARTA (DPA) - Indonesia has imposed an Internet blackout in the Papua and West Papua provinces in an attempt to stem unrest triggered by the heavy-handed treatment of Papuan protesters on Java island from spreading, an official said on Thursday (Aug 22).

Data communications have been shut down since Wednesday in the provinces "until the situation gets back to normal", Communications and Information Technology Ministry spokesman Ferdinandus Setu said.

Police sent 1,200 reinforcements to three West Papua districts, where most of the violence has taken place this week, spokesman Muhammad Iqbal said on Wednesday.

The military has also sent 300 additional troops.

In the latest unrest, protesters torched a traditional market and government buildings in the town of Fakfak on Wednesday, police said, but insisted the situation was under control.

There were no reports of fatalities during the three days of sometimes violent protests.

Protesters also torched a section of a prison in Sorong in West Papua province, prompting a riot that led to the escape of more than 250 inmates.

This week's marches, which have involved thousands of people, are in response to a crackdown on Papuan students in East Java who were calling for self-determination for their homeland last Friday.

Rights groups have criticised the police for what they claimed was a heavy-handed treatment of the Papuan protesters in East Java.

Police forced their way into a Papuan student dormitory in Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, and briefly detained dozens of students for allegedly desecrating an Indonesian flag.

Papuan activists said they were also subjected to racist abuse.

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