Tracey Shelton – A group of students from West Papua say two bags of snakes were thrown into their dormitory amid weeks of unrest and protests over racism and self-determination for Indonesia's easternmost provinces.
The students at the Kamasan III Surabaya Dormitory in East Java said they were woken in the night by the sound of motorcycles as four people rode past and threw the bags of snakes into their dormitory.
Several students living in the dorm told the ABC that one of the bags contained a snake weighing more than 15 kilograms, while a second bag had three snakes that quickly spread through the compound.
"We feel intimidation, terror and fear because three aggressive snakes have not been found until now," Yohanes Giyai, a student who has been living at the dormitory for three weeks, told the ABC. "We hope there will be no victims."
Video sent to the ABC showed one empty sack on the ground and a large snake still curled up inside a plastic bag, with a second video showing the large snake in a cage.
Mr Giyai said the students were able to catch this one snake while it was still inside the bag, but the others escaped into the dormitory.
"We suspect that the aggressive snakes are venomous," Mr Giyai said, adding they are still looking for the snakes and "being very careful" not to get bitten.
Lawyer Andy Irfan of the Federation of KontraS, which provides legal assistance to victims of violence, confirmed the incident and origin of the vision.
Mr Irfan said while there were previously about 60 students living at the dorm, many had returned to Papua in recent weeks in fear following earlier attacks.
The East Java Police urged the public not to be provoked by the alleged snake throwing incident.
"Do not be provoked, because there are other parties trying to heat up the situation," police commissioner Frans Barung Mangera of the East Java Police told local media.
Indonesian news agency Antara reported that police were investigating the incident, but Mr Mangera said police had been guarding the building due to unrest last month and questioned how could it could have happened without police knowledge.
"The police always monitor the dormitory. But that doesn't mean guaranteeing security for the students," Mr Irfan said.
Mr Giyai said plain clothed police have been monitoring the activities of the students in the hostel for some weeks.
"We feel pressured by their activities," he said, adding that they had seen men watching with binoculars after the snakes had been thrown, but no police responded to the incident.
Indonesia's national police spokesperson said the matter was being handled by local police who did not respond to requests for comment from the ABC.
Andreas Harsono, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in Indonesia, said his organisation had confirmed the incident but did not provide further details.
Second attack on dormitory in recent weeks
The accommodation at the centre of the snake incident, Kamasan III Surabaya Dormitory, also made headlines last month when a group of students said they were barricaded inside the dorm by nationalist vigilantes who cut power to the building and chanted racist slurs.
The mob said the students had committed "slander" on the Indonesian national flag, and police moved in to storm the building, reportedly firing tear gas, injuring five, and arresting 43 students who were later released without charge.
Footage of the military officers calling the students "monkeys" quickly circulated on social media, sparking outrage and one of the largest protests across the region.
The Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua – often referred to collectively as West Papua – have since seen weeks of unrest as protesters call for an end to racial violence with many pushing for a referendum on independence for the region.
Mr Giyai, who is also a member of the central committee of Papuan student alliances, said signs calling for a new referendum in West Papua have also been doused with red paint at the front of the building.