A church official in Indonesia's restive Christian-majority Papua region has deplored the killing of a gold miner by an armed criminal group and called for an end to the exploitation of resources that continues to breed violence.
Father Bernard Baru, chairman of the Augustinian Order of the Justice and Peace Commission in Papua said the region has complex interests, such as investment, militarism, and political policy that trigger conflicts.
"Military is here mainly to help develop the investment. In terms of natural resources exploitation, I would say security officers also play their part. They back illegal mining and logging. And this drives Papuan resistance groups to fight back," Father Baru told UCA News on Nov. 8.
"The consequence is that civilians, who are in the front line, become victims," he said.
The priest reacted after an armed criminal group (KKB) killed a gold miner who was operating without a permit and burned down a mining camp in a remote village on Nov. 5.
Papua Police spokesperson Ahmad Mustofa Kamal said on Nov. 7 that the attack was led by KKB leader Bocor Sobolim in Kawe village of Pegunungan Bintang district.
The slain miner was identified as 29-year-old Rolmo Aldus Tuenoa. He bled to death after the attackers chopped his arm with sharp weapons, Kamal told reporters.
The victim's body and several witnesses were evacuated by a helicopter to the neighboring district of Boven Digoel for investigation, he said.
Kamal claimed that this was not the first attack against illegal gold miners by the same armed group, which beheaded an illegal miner in July.
Pegunungan Bintang police chief Cahyo Sukarnito told the press that a team has been deployed to investigate the killing and to hunt down attackers in remote, hilly-forested terrain.
He claimed that more than 1,000 illegal gold miners were operating in the village and appealed that they immediately abandon the area as they may be "prone to attacks by the group."
The police official said the same criminal group had killed three illegal gold miners in February in the same village.
Indonesia's easternmost Papua region is rich in natural resources such as oil, gas, gold, coal, nickel and iron sand, according to Kompaspedia, a data site managed by the national daily, Kompas.
While Papua has a long-running insurgency for independence, disputes over the share of natural resources trigger frequent violence, observers say.
Police have not yet revealed the motive for the recent attack, but the priest said local people might be displeased with the illegal gold mining activities and asked for help from a Papuan resistance group to drive them out of their village.
"The Church's stance is very clear. This is greed which receives support from the military strength. There is no other way but to keep voicing about a fair and dignified dialogue through a third party, for example, the United Nations so that the root of conflict can be tackled," Father Baru said.
"We, the Church in Papua, also hope that the Church in Indonesia will also speak up about a fair and dignified dialogue in the Papua region."
Meanwhile, Sebby Sambom, spokesman of the West Papua National Army-Free Papua Organization (TNPB-OPM), said in a message uploaded on YouTube on Nov. 7 that KKB led by Bocor Sobolim claimed responsibility for the recent killing and attack.
"They say they will not stop (killing). We will kill all people who come and mine gold. It is because principally illegal people come to steal the Papuan people's natural resources," he said.
"We ask Indonesia and the world: Does it make sense if Indonesian people come and enter the forests to steal the Papuan people's natural resources? It is funny. We can say that Indonesian people are out of their minds because Papuan people never steal gold and natural resources in Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku, East Nusa Tenggara and so on."