Jayapura, Jubi – The Executive Board of the Yahukimo Student Community (KPMY) recently made a press statement addressing the security situation in Yahukimo Regency, wherein armed conflict between the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) and the Indonesian Military (TNI) has displaced hundreds of civilians as security forces sweeps in residential areas to pursue TPNPB.
"From the data that we students collect, there are around 400 civilians who have fled. Some civilians fled to the forest, setting up huts in the middle of the forest. Some residents fled to Dekai, the capital of Yahukimo Regency, and stayed at their relatives' houses. There are also those who live in the yard of the Yahukimo Police Headquarters," said student coordinator Solleng Sool.
The armed conflict escalated when TPNPB shot four TNI soldiers in Paradiso Road, Dekai District, resulting in the death of Pvt. LW and injured 1715/Yahukimo Military District commander Lt. Col. Inf Johanis Victorianus Tethool, Pvt. NS, and Sgt. RS. Since then, TNI troops have been pursuing the shooters.
Sool said he received information that on Monday security forces again swept a number of civilian settlements in Yahukimo, during which they seized property and arrested a number of civilians.
"The security forces confiscated property belonging to civilians and the community. There were several civilians arrested by the authorities during the sweeping," he said.
Another student, Venus Kabak, said the TNI's pursuit of the TPNPB group affected civilians in Yahukimo. According to him and made them unable to carry out daily activities normally.
"If in such a state of fear, people are not fully free to carry out activities. And as people leave their farms, they will depend on food handouts and that will lead to starvation. We ask that the TNI and police not conduct excessive sweeping so that people can access their gardens," he said.
Another student, Elianus Hambisabon, said the escalation of the armed conflict had halted educational activities in a number of areas of Yahukimo. "We students request that the government immediately run learning activities as well as revive the economic activities in Dekai," he said.
Representative from Region III Yahukimo Ronny Welsa said his region was in a humanitarian crisis. Welsa urged the Yahukimo Regent to revoke the Memorandum of Understanding between the Yahukimo Administration and the Papua Police, which he believes is the basis for the addition of security forces in Yahukimo. Meanwhile, the Yahukimo People Council was urged to form a Special Committee to record the number of Yahukimo civilians who fled.
"We as Yahukimo students condemn and urge authorities such as the Regent of Yahukimo to stop sending the military to Yahukimo. Yahukimo Police chief, please stop arresting civilians, and immediately release civilians who are detained. We ask the government to withdraw TNI and police from Suru-suru District, Yahukimo," he said.
Welsa also urged security forces to stop sweeping civilian settlements in Yahukimo, and return all civilian property that had been seized by security forces. (*)