Militias' presence induces fear of military crackdown
'The Indonesian military will use this as a pretext to exterminate the Papuans.'
Human rights activist, Papua
The tribal peoples of Papua fear a new wave of violence as Islamic militias move into the province, trying to stir up tension between the majority Christian population and Islamic settlers. The Indonesian army seems set on using militia groups to recreate in Papua the violence and terror it brought to East Timor.
Papua (formerly called Irian Jaya) is the western half of the island of New Guinea. The 1.2 million tribal people whose home it is have long campaigned for independence from Indonesia. An estimated 100,000 of them have been killed by the Indonesian armed forces since 1963.
In recent months, hundreds of members of an Islamic militant group called Laskar Jihad have suddenly appeared in Papua. The group's actions in another Indonesian region led to unrest that left 8000 people dead. Laskar Jihad has also been training an army-supported militia called Red and White; both were previously unknown in Papua, and are likely to create massive civil disorder. The Papuan people know that any unrest will be used as justification for a brutal crackdown by the armed forces resulting in yet more killings.