Indonesia sees need for more troops in Papua
JAKARTA — The Indonesian military is considering sending thousands of extra troops to restive Papua province where it stands accused of widespread human rights abuses, a spokesman said Tuesday.
Rear Marshal Sagom Tamboen said up to four battalions from a "Rapid Reaction Strike Force" division based in Jakarta could be sent to the restive province to "maintain the territory's unity within eastern Indonesia".
"There are many things we took into consideration... including tackling the separatist movement and terrorism," he told AFP.
"In case of an emergency, it takes at least eight hours to send troops from Jakarta to Papua. If we have (more) troops there, automatically we can save time and can react swiftly," he said.
He did not say how many troops were currently stationed in Papua but an independent analyst said there were about 10 battalions.
Poorly armed Papuan separatists have waged a low-level insurgency against Indonesian rule for decades but are not seen as posing any serious threat to Jakarta's control of the resource-rich region.
Tamboen said the planned deployment -- which has not yet been approved by the government -- had nothing to do with recent shootings targeting police and employees of US mining giant Freeport McMoRan.
An Australian mine technician, a Freeport security guard and a policeman were killed near Freeport's massive gold and copper mine last July, the first of a spate of such attacks which have left several other people injured.
Many indigenous Papuans accuse Indonesian security forces of human rights abuses and complain that the province's natural riches are being stolen by outsiders.
A report last year by New York-based Human Rights Watch backed up the Papuans' claims and urged Western governments such as Australia to cut military aid for the Indonesian special forces.
Indonesia denies allegations of systematic rights abuses but bars foreign journalists from independently reporting in the province.