3 Aug 2011

Thousands of Papuans march on local parliament

9:32 am on 3 August 2011

Thousands of indigenous Papuans marched on the local parliament in the capital of Indonesia's Papua, demanding a referendum for independence from the archipelago.

The Indonesian military has kept a tight rein on Papua, home to a mine with the world's largest gold reserves and largest recoverable copper reserves run by Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold.

There were several other smaller rallies in cities in the country's east, as well as in Jakarta.

The secretary general of the West Papua National Committee in Jakarta, Oktovianus Pogau, says many Papuans showed up on the street for the rally, highlighting much they want a referendum to decide their own destiny.

Indonesia's government and military have been criticised in the past for human rights abuses in the province, after Indonesia took over Papua in 1969 from Dutch colonial rule in a vote by community leaders that was widely criticised as flawed.

A low-level separatist insurgency has simmered in the province for decades.

Meanwhile, in London yesterday, a conference about West Papuan self determination was held at Oxford University.