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Army general speaks at length on armed groups in Papua

Tempo - May 23, 2023

Eka Yudha Saputra, Abdul Manan, Setri Yasra, Iwan Kurniawan and Anton Aprianto, Jakarta – The Indonesian Army Chief of Staff (KSAD) general Dudung Abdurachman on Monday stated that armed criminal groups in Papua are merely groups of people abusing the benefits of the central government's specific funds for the region without meaningful political activities.

In an interview with Tempo on May 15, Dudung strongly believes that 90 percent of Papuans are loyal to the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia or NKRI, with only a minority supporting the so-called armed criminal groups, which in most cases also refers to separatist groups.

"They are only criminals, just a means for a source of livelihood. I can guarantee their political activities are restricted as outsiders fail to respond to them," said the Army general at the Army Main Headquarters in Central Jakarta. "Now they are starting to adapt their ways to attract foreign responses. One of them is through hostage situations."

He categorized these groups as unemployed people with tendencies to blackmail contractors establishing projects in Papua.

"Every time there are projects there, contractors will get attacked if the groups are not given some money. But [contractors] are safe if they do," the military general claimed.

According to Dudung, Indonesian military manpower is able to eradicate the KKB with the existing main weaponry system (alutsista) as he believes the separatists barely exceed 200 people in number.

However, he acknowledged that there are indeed difficulties in eradicating armed criminal groups, including domination of local demographics and geography. Dudung also claims the KKB often used human shields by mingling with children and women to avoid being chased by the authorities.

Due to the aforementioned tactics, Dudung said, the joint military and police forces specifically tasked in Papua are extremely careful not to cause innocent casualties.

He said the problem involving armed criminal groups has to be handled with a security approach, which is currently in use he deemed acceptable. However, he said the KKB issue is more than just a security issue and asserted that conflicts in Papua would not be immediately resolved after the armed criminal groups disappeared.

"Papua is not just a matter of the TNI and Polri. It's a national problem," he said.

The Army general claims he once urged the vice president to involve every aspect within the government to help solve the rooted conflicts in Papua and even suggested the constant deadly battles between Indonesian authorities and armed criminal groups must be ended.

"The death toll from the conflicts that constantly reoccur. Deaths are on both sides. [The armed group's] families mourn the deaths of their loved ones, so are we [mourning security forces killed in action]," he said.

Dudung claims soldiers have always reached rural Papuan villages to look after the welfare of local Papuans in remote areas but said these locations remain untouched by other government Ministries. He also claims that his men often provide locals with seeds or books and stationery despite not having the budget for such humanitarian acts.

"The Ministry of Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Trade, and the Ministry of Agriculture should be involved. Everyone should be involved," said Dudung.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1728755/army-general-speaks-at-length-on-armed-groups-in-papu