18 Mar 2003

PNG police confirm burning of Papuans linked to OPM

7:06 am on 18 March 2003

Papua New Guinea police have confirmed that they have burned down buildings of the families of rebel Papuans living near Vanimo, close to the Indonesian border.

The Papuans are lonked to Mathias Wenda, a senior commander of the militant separatist group, the OPM.

A police spokesperson, Elizabeth Solomon, says the houses were razed after the people had been moved, rejecting local reports that the Papuans' possessions were also burnt.

She also says reports that a number of the Papuans had been arrested are wrong, rather they have been moved closer to the border.

"The security presence along the border... they can keep an eye on them, monitor them , whether they are genuine or not genuine. The place is furether away from the border. There is no security personnel there on the ground to really monitor them. They have been moved closer to the border area."

PNG police spokesperson Elizabeth Solomon.

The incident comes after the PNG government last week agreed to delay repatriating a separate group of Papuan bordercrossers living in Vanimo.

Mathias Wenda has made his base in PNG for years, but the PNG government signalled a crackdown on the OPM after a series of violent incidents at the border earlier this year.