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Tan Sen, founding member of Free Papua Movement dies

Radio New Zealand - August 11, 2021

A founding member of the Free West Papua Movement, Tan Sen Thay, has died in the Netherlands.

Tan Sen was an integral figure in the independence movement that developed in West Papua as part of the struggle against Indonesian rule, once Dutch colonial rule was replaced in the 1960s.

Tan Sen died aged 93. He had lived in The Hague for many years after fleeing from Indonesian rule, arriving in the Netherlands with just two gulden in currency and a traditionally woven West Papuan noken bag.

In a piece uncovering the Chinese Indonesian's important but little known role in the West Papua independence movement's legacy, journalist Rohan Radheya wrote that leaving Papua did not stop Tan Sen contributing significantly to the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) for decades to come.

He worked for many years as a mechanic, sending earnings back to the movement in West Papua, where their forces launched attacks on Indonesian soldiers from the jungles of the rugged interior.

Tan Sen designed and wove handmade uniforms, then smuggled them back to the OPM via refugee camps in areas near the border with Papua New Guinea.

He would also arrange asylum for West Papuan refugees, sometimes financing their trips overseas to help them resettle in other countries.

West Papuans who later took asylum in Europe were compelled to go and pay respects to Meneer Tan (Lord Tan).

If anyone wanted to join the independence movement abroad, Tan Sen was the OPM stalwart before whom they would take their oath of loyalty.

Source: https://www.rnz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/448967/tan-sen-founding-member-of-free-papua-movement-die