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Local residents blockade Papua airstrip, cite lack of compensation

Jakarta Globe - August 8, 2012

Residents of the Asmat district in Papua have organized a blockade of the local airstrip there, calling for compensation owed for land used in an expansion of the facility, an air transportation official said on Wednesday.

"It has now been two weeks since Trigana Air planes have been able to fly to Ewer due to the blocking of the airstrip by local people," John Rettob, who heads the Air Transportation section of the Mimika district Transportation, Communication and Informatics office, said.

He was quoted by state-run news agency Antara as saying that the blockade is taking place because citizens in the district are demanding reimbursement for land used by the local district authority that was used to extend the length of an airstrip. The goal of the extension was to allow bigger planes to land there.

The airstrip is currently serving flights from Timika and Merauke. Rettob commented that other flights to outlying airstrips using small planes, such as the ones going to Ewer, were mostly unaffected. He said that problems usually arose from bad weather conditions.

"There have been some flights delayed because of bad weather. In one week there are usually three to four flights that cannot proceed as scheduled," Rettob said, according to Antara.

Recent assaults on small airplanes flying to the region have also hindered travel to this remote section of the country. An attack on a Trigana Air Twin Otter airplane on April 8, 2012 in Jayapura left one passenger dead and four others injured, including the pilot and co-pilot.

There are 17 outer routes served by Timika, and three airlines serve these routes,as well – Tribana, Susi Air and Jhon Lin Air. Papua contains a very limited land road network, and thus relies heavily on air transportation to access the hinterland.