Jakarta shuts internet in Papua over unrest fears

Demonstrators in Fakfak West Papua province reportedly set the public market on fire on Wednesday

Demonstrators in Fakfak West Papua province reportedly set the public market on fire on Wednesday

The riots and demonstrations in the restive region were triggered by the weekend arrest of dozens of Papuan students in Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya, where they were also targeted with racial abuse.

Indonesia's government ordered to block internet access in West Papua, Al Jazeera reports.

Reverend James Bhagwan says the recent incidents in Java further illustrate the concerns raised about the situation in West Papua during last week's Pacific Forum leaders summit last week.

In what is regarded as the largest protests in Indonesia's eastern-most region, buildings have been torched, including the West Papua Regional Legislative Council (DPRD) in Manokwari, a jail, a market and a hotel.

As they marched from the Indonesian army headquarters to the gates of the presidential palace, demonstrators shouted pro-independence slogans demanding "referendum for Papua" or "freedom for Papua".

Indonesia's top security officials, including police and military chiefs, visited Sorong on Thursday.

A Papuan activist displays a banner demanding referendum during a rally near the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia.

In Jakarta, rights group and journalists associations urged the communication ministry to end an internet blackout in Papua that started on Wednesday night.

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Smaller demonstrations and rallies in support of the Papuans were reported yesterday in Jakarta as well as in Bogor in West Java.

Mr Wiranto passed on President Joko Widodo's appeal for Papuans to "become peaceful again, forgive one another, and not to be emotional", national police spokesman Asep Adi Saputra told reporters in Jakarta yesterday.

A group of West Papuan students in Indonesia's capital staged the protest against racism and called for independence for their region.

The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology said it would "temporarily block" the "telecommunications data service" in both provinces beginning on August 21 in order to "accelerate the process of security and order", according to Al-Jazeera, Agence France-Presse and a statement published on the ministry's website.

Papuan students have repeatedly been targets of intimidation by Islamist and nationalist groups as worldwide advocacy for Papuan independence has escalated since the formation of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua in 2014.

Papua is a former Dutch colony in the western part of New Guinea that is ethnically and culturally distinct from much of Indonesia.

Widodo has sought to ease tensions and improve welfare by building infrastructure in the provinces.

He has visited the region more often than any of his predecessors, and plans to open a bridge next month in Jayapura, the capital of Papua province, his secretariat said.

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