Police crackdown on protests against new autonomy regions in West Papua – two protesters shot dead, 14 injured, 103 arrested

Police forces cracked down on peaceful protests against the formation of new autonomy regions in West Papua. A protest in the town of Dekai, Yahukimo regency on 15 March 2022, was forcefully dispersed with firearms. According to local informants, the police indiscriminately opened fire at the crowd, causing the death of two protesters while eight were reportedly injured by bullets. The person who registered the demonstration was arrested. Metro Jaya Police officers dispersed a peaceful student protest in Jakarta on 11 March 2022 and arrested 102 protesters. At least six were reportedly ill-treated during the arrest. Previously, police officers ill-treated fourteen protesters during an attempt to disperse a peaceful protest against the administrative partitions in Papua’s main city Jayapura on 8 March 2022. 

Police forces in other towns across West Papua allowed the people to protest peacefully against the central government’s plan to divide West Papua into six provinces. Thousands of protesters in the towns of Sorong, Wamena, Jayawijaya Regency and Madi, Paniai Regency, went to the streets to voice their discontent with Jakarta’s plans (see photos below). Intellectuals and civil society leaders criticise the administrative partitions as they accelerate the marginalisation of indigenous Papuans and the exploitation of resources in West Papua without bringing benefits to the wide majority of the Papuan people. Protesters also called upon the government to allow the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit West Papua.

Dispersal of protest in Jakarta

About one hundred Papuan students and West Papua solidarity supporters organised a peaceful demonstration against the formation of new provinces in West Papua near the Internal Affairs Ministry in Jakarta on 11 March 2022. Police officers tried to block the protesters on the way to the ministry before they forcefully dispersed the crowd (see photos below) and arrested 102 protesters. At least six among them were subjected to ill-treatment during arrest (see photos and table below). The police members brought the protesters to the Metro Jaya Police stadium, where they were exposed to heavy rain as there was no roof.

Apart from a Papuan student named Mr Alfius Wenda, all protesters were released on the same day. The police are investigating Mr Wenda concerning the attack against police officer Ferikson Tampubolon. According to police sources, four other officers were allegedly injured during the crowd control operation. The Jakarta Police chief, officer Hengki Haryadi, announced that the police will press charges against protesters who were involved in the attack on his men. He added that the police dispersed the protest because the protesters came too close to the Ministry, which is regarded as a vital national object.

NoNameSexAdditional information
1IncefemaleOfficers kicked her in the chest and fainted
2BobmaleOfficers kicked him in the upper stomach and sustained bruises on the leg
3Samuel PurwaromaleSustained bruises near the right eye as police forces kicked him and dragged him to the police car
4Detris MuribmaleAn officer kicked him from behind to the back and punched him in the face causing swelling on his forehead
5DetenmaleAn officer beat him with a helmet to the head
6GudelmaleAn officer kicked him in the face and to the body, causing one of his teeth to crack, another officer pulled him by the testicles and snatched his mobile phone, the phone was later returned.
 Table with victims ill-treated during a peaceful protest in Jakarta on 11 March 2022   

Crackdown on protest in Dekai

The protest in Yahukimo’s largest town, Dekai, was held on 15 March 2022. Hundreds of protesters had come to the demonstration to take a firm stance against the formation of new autonomy regions in West Papua. As of now, it is not clear what caused the escalation of the protest, which initially began peacefully, with speakers holding orations in front of the Ruko Pangkalan Cenderawasih stores.

First tensions reportedly occurred around 12.00 pm. A witness claimed that the crowd became angry as an unknown person started to record the orations, speakers and protesters with a drone. A heated argument between police members and protesters quickly escalated into unrest. The police opened fire and shot with live ammunition indiscriminately at the crowd. The crowd responded by throwing stones at the police officers. The protesters burnt multiple stores as well as government offices to the ground (see photos and videos below).

Two protesters, Mr Yakob Meklok and Mr Erson Weipsa, died as a result of bullet injuries that they sustained during the unrest. Eight other protesters sustained bullet injuries, three of which had to be hospitalized at the General Hospital in Dekai (see table below). Following the crackdown, police officers reportedly arrested the person registering the protest, Mr Denias Helembo, along with several other protesters. Following the incident, the Papuan Regional Police (Polda Papua) deployed about 80 additional police personnel to Dekai.

The victims’ relatives called upon the police to investigate the deaths of Mr Yakob Meklok and Mr Erson Weipsa, hold all perpetrators accountable and dismiss the incumbent Yahukimo Police chief. The victim’s bodies were buried near the main road in Dekai. The relatives wanted the graves to become a symbol of the Papuan people’s struggle against the formation of new provinces in West Papua.

NoNameAgeSexAdditional info
1Yakob Meklok39maleSustained a lethal bullet injury under the right armpit; he died on the spot
2Erson Weipsa18maleSustained a lethal wound as a bullet pierced his torso from the back to the chest, he died shortly after admission to the general hospital 
3Anton Itlay  23maleSustained a bullet injury in the left thigh and is treated at the general hospital; his current condition is critical
4Ripen Keroman20maleSustained a bullet injury in the thigh and is treated at the general hospital; his current condition is critical
5Omori Bahabol22maleSustained a bullet injury in the thigh and is treated at the general hospital; his current condition is critical
6Setti Kobak23maleSustained a bullet injury and received outpatient treatment at the general hospital
7Lukas Busup37maleSustained a bullet injury and received outpatient treatment at the general hospital
8Ance Kaningga17femaleSustained a bullet injury and received outpatient treatment at the general hospital
9Luki Kobak21maleSustained a bullet injury in the right thigh and received outpatient treatment at the general hospital
10Miren Omu22maleSustained a bullet injury and received outpatient treatment at the general hospital
Table with victims during a crackdown on a protest in Dekai, Yahukimo Regency, on 15 March 2022

Photos and Videos taken during crackdown in Dekai

Video of the crackdown on protesters in Dekai, Yahukimo Regency

Photos and Videos taken during protest in Jakarta

Video of protesters in Jakarta inside the police vehicle shortly after the arrest
Video of protest in Jakarta, shortly before being dispersed by police officers

Photos and videos of peaceful protests in Wamena, Jayawijaya Regency

Photos and videos of peaceful protests in Madi, Paniai Regency

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