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Protesters burn parliament building in Indonesian province

Television footage showed orange flames and smoke billowing from the burning parliament building.

A car burns during a protest in Indonesia (Safwan Ashari Raharusun/AP)
A car burns during a protest in Indonesia (Safwan Ashari Raharusun/AP)

By Laode Mursidin, Associated Press Reporter

Thousands of people in Indonesia’s West Papua province have set fire to a local parliament building.

The protest was sparked by accusations that security forces had arrested and insulted students from neighbouring Papua province, officials said.

The protesters torched the building and set fire to cars and tyres on several blocked roads leading to a port, shopping centres and offices in Manokwari, the capital of West Papua province, according to vice governor Mohammad Lakotani.

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People gather on a street as smoke billows from a burning car in Indonesia (Safwan Ashari Raharusun/AP)

“The city’s economy has been paralysed by the demonstrators,” he said. “Negotiations between protesters and the authorities are currently under way to end the riots.”

Television footage showed orange flames and smoke billowing from the burning parliament building.

An insurgency has simmered in Papua since the early 1960s, when Indonesia annexed the region, a former Dutch colony.

In recent years, some Papua students, including some who study in other provinces, have become vocal in calling for self-determination for the province.

Protesters also destroyed parts of an airport in Sorong, another city in West Papua province, said local police chief Mario Christy Siregar.

He said rioters broke windows and burned some belongings, but security forces were able to secure the facility and the incident did not disturb airport activities.

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People take part in a protest in Papua province, Indonesia (Safwan Ashari Raharusun/AP)

Mr Lakotani said the demonstration in Manokwari was triggered by allegations that police had arrested and insulted dozens of Papuan students in their dormitories in the East Java city of Surabaya a day earlier.

Police stormed the dormitories in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, on Sunday after Papuan students staying there refused to be questioned over allegations that they had intentionally damaged the national flag in the dormitory’s yard.

East Java police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera said 43 students were detained but released hours later after no evidence was found that they had damaged the flag.

Amateur video allegedly showing police, backed by soldiers, calling the Papuan students “monkeys” and “dogs” circulated widely on the internet, sparking anger in Papua and West Papua.

President Joko Widodo urged people to forgive each other after the riots.

“My brothers and sisters in Papua and West Papua, I know you feel offended. Therefore, as fellow countrymen, to forgive each other is the best. You may get angry but forgiving is better,” he said. “Please believe that the government will maintain the honour and welfare of all people in Papua and West Papua.”

PA

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