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More Papuans flee from homes amid ongoing armed conflict in Puncak

Tabloid JUBI - May 20, 2021

Hengky Yeimo, Nabire, Jubi – Dozens of people from the Kabuki Village of Mabugi District arrived in Ilaga, the capital district of Puncak Regency, on Wednesday after two weeks of walking through the forest and passing two mountains.

These people add to the number of displaced people who fled their homes due to escalated conflict between the Indonesian Military (TNI) and police and the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) since early April.

A Kabuki resident said that the displaced people from Kabuki Village walked through a very rough terrain which was the forest of Mount Gergaji and Mount Kelabo, famous for its narrow and steep slope. These people deemed hiking a better option than being in constant fear of the military and armed groups.

"We went through the sides of ravines, the roads [which normally] people cannot pass," he told Jubi in a Whatsapp message on Wednesday, May 19, 2021.

The Kabuki residents will join the displaced people from North Gome District who have also fled to Ilaga. "For the time being, we will stay at the house of North Gome chief Herman Mom. The people gather in small groups according to their respective hometowns so that collecting data will be easier," said the Jubi source.

He said that the government needed to record the total number of Puncak displaced people ever since the armed conflict escalated in the region. To date, the number of internally displaced people, including those who fled to neighboring regencies such as Nabire and Mimika, is estimated to be thousands.

The Jubi source said that they needed the government's food assistance as they could not grow crops due to the displacement. "The government must turn up when the people need them, especially in these difficult times, because the people have chosen them to be the leader," he said.

Another Jubi source who requested anonymity demanded the government to handle the armed conflict in Puncak seriously as it had made the people victims of human rights violations and losing access to basic facilities such as health and education.

"The government cannot miss this fact. The people are deeply traumatized. It is better to withdraw the military from Puncak," she said.

Meanwhile, in Beoga District, two villages are already empty because all of the villagers of Dambet and Tinggilibet have fled their homes.

"Some fled to Wangbe [District], some to the East Beoga District, and the others to Timika [Regency]. The TNI and police, as well as the TPNPB, have entered Dambet and Tinggilibet. That is why the people left their hometowns, for their safety," a Jubi source said on Wednesday.

"Some people in Dambet who initially chose to stay eventually fled to Milawak, Beoga's capital, after gunfire erupted in TInggilibet on Tuesday. Beoga is gradually becoming a silent hill," he added.

He further complained that the government had not paid attention to Beoga displaced people. "We have sent a message to the Puncak regional secretary to send us aids but they have not replied. Their phone number was out of reach when we tried to call. We tried repeatedly," he said.

According to him, the Puncak Government once delivered food assistance after the murder of two Beoga teachers by the TPNPB on April 8 and 9. However, after that, there were no more aids coming from the government.

Armed conflict in Puncak continues ever since the killing of teachers suspected as Indonesian spies by the TPNPB. The TPNPB also shot dead a Papua spy chief and in response, the Indonesian government labeled them terrorists despite many civil groups were against the labeling.

On May 13, the TPNPB burned an elementary school building in Dambet, followed by the presence of the TNI and police in the village. On the same day, in Ilaga, a TPNPB soldier reportedly died in a crossfire. Another two soldiers of the TPNPB were shot dead on Sunday and one man injured.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the crossfire between the TNI and police and the TPNPB in Tinggilibet have caused a number of stray bullets to hit the KINGMI Church. "The stray bullets hit and damaged the KINGMI Church, forcing the rest of the residents of Tinggilibet and Dambet to take refuge," said the Jubi source.

Source: https://en.jubi.co.id/more-papuans-take-refuge-amid-ongoing-armed-conflict-in-puncak