Violence Follows Pro-Independence Protests In Indonesia's Papua Region Tensions between pro-independence supporters and government authorities in Indonesia's Papua and West Papua provinces have continued into a second week. The government has shut down Internet access.
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Violence Follows Pro-Independence Protests In Indonesia's Papua Region

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Violence Follows Pro-Independence Protests In Indonesia's Papua Region

Violence Follows Pro-Independence Protests In Indonesia's Papua Region

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Indonesia is cracking down on a movement in the far eastern part of that country. More than 1,000 soldiers and police have deployed to the Papuan region to quell protests. Dozens have been arrested and at least one soldier and two demonstrators are dead since the demonstrations turned violent more than a week ago. The government has also shut down the Internet in that region in an effort to stop the spread of what it calls fake news. Here's NPR's Ashley Westerman.

ASHLEY WESTERMAN, BYLINE: The Indonesian government first slowed the Internet. Then on August 21, it blocked all cellular and cable Internet in Papua and West Papua provinces. It was a response to demonstrations sparked by videos of Papuan students in another part of the country being racially insulted by Indonesian nationalist groups. Since the unrest began, demonstrators have torched buildings and clashed with police.

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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Singing in foreign language).

WESTERMAN: This video from Twitter shows protesters in West Papua marching and singing separatist songs. Victor Yeimo is spokesperson for the pro-Papuan independence movement.

VICTOR YEIMO: This is the first time that Indonesia block the Internet in whole West Papua.

WESTERMAN: Speaking on a landline from an area where the Internet's out, Yeimo says these protests are Papuans' response to 50 years of racism by people he calls outsiders.

YEIMO: People very angry about this situation. What they are thinking today is they need to be free from Indonesia colonialism.

WESTERMAN: Indonesian colonialism - that's what many indigenous Papuans say they have been fighting since the '60s when the Dutch relinquished the territory to Indonesia.

GREG POLING: There was a - what many would consider a sham referendum in 1969.

WESTERMAN: Greg Poling is with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

POLING: And ever since then, there has been demands that the Papuan people be given the chance to really vote for their status. So these protests are part of a regular cycle, although these are the largest and most sustained we've seen in some years.

WESTERMAN: Over the decades, global human rights groups have documented alleged violations by state security forces stationed in the region, one of Indonesia's poorest. The abuses ranged from censorship to rape and torture. Human rights lawyer Veronica Koman says the Internet shutdown is alarming because it makes it hard to monitor for abuses.

VERONICA KOMAN: And given the track record of the state security forces against West Papuan people, this is a very emergency situation.

WESTERMAN: Jakarta continues to defend its decision to shut down the Internet while calling for calm in the region. They won't say when the block will be lifted. Still, photos and videos of demonstrations are getting through...

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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).

WESTERMAN: ...Like this one, which shows men, women and children marching in the streets, waving flags and chanting pro-independence slogans.

Ashley Westerman, NPR News.

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