Thousands of protesters in Indonesia’s West Papua province have set fire to a local parliament building
MANOKWARI, Indonesia (AP) — Thousands of protesters in Indonesia’s West Papua province set fire to a local parliament building on Monday in a violent protest against the alleged insults and arrests of Papuan students, officials said.
The angered mob torched the building and set fire to tires and twigs on several blocked roads leading to a seaport, shopping centers and offices in Manokwari, the capital city of West Papua province, said Vice Gov. Mohammad Lakotani.
“The city’s economy has been paralyzed by the demonstrators,” Lakotani said. “Negotiations between protesters and the authorities are currently underway to end the riots.”
Television footage showed orange flames and gray smoke billowing from the burning parliament building.
Lakotani said the demonstration was sparked by accusations that Indonesian police, backed by the military, arrested and insulted dozens of Papuan students in their dormitories in the East Java cities of Surabaya and Malang a day earlier.
Police stormed a dormitory in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, on Sunday after Papuan students staying there refused to be questioned by police over allegations that they had intentionally damaged the national red-and-white flag in the dormitory’s yard.
Amateur video showing police, backed by soldiers, calling the Papuan students “monkeys” and “dogs” circulated widely on the internet, sparking anger in Indonesia’s easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua.
East Java police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera said 43 students were detained but released hours later, after no evidence was found that they had damaged the flag.
Several thousand protesters also staged rallies in Jayapura, the capital city of the neighboring province of Papua, with many in the crowd wearing headbands of a separatist flag.
An insurgency has simmered in Papua since the early 1960s, when Indonesia annexed the region, which is a former Dutch colony. It was formally incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a U.N.-sponsored ballot that was seen as a sham by many.
Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.
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