I, Chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), condemn in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons by the Indonesian military on West Papuan civilians. Indonesian security operations over the last month have created a humanitarian crisis in the Nduga Regency.

The ULMWP is receiving numerous reports that chemical burn-causing weapons have hit villages in the Nduga region of West Papua. We have photos of burned limbs, dead bodies and empty munitions canisters. The pain of the occupied West Papuan people has been increased once again by the Indonesian state.

Already over the last month, thousands of people, including women, children and the elderly, have fled their homes and are hiding in the bush without access to shelter, food, and water. Already three children have died from hunger hiding from the bombs and bullets of Indonesia. Indonesian operations bring back memories for us West Papuans of military campaigns in 1977 which killed thousands of us.

Indonesia claims the photos and testimonies are lies. But why then does Indonesia refuse to let independent investigators, journalists and humanitarian aid agencies in to help the victims, and to show what really happened? If Indonesia is so sure that we West Papuans are lying, why do they have so much to hide?

The photos and testimonies of the Papuans who have been burned and killed by Indonesian chemical warfare brings back memories of my childhood. In 1977, I fled my village when Indonesian aeroplanes and bombs destroyed my home and killed my friends. My heart cries out seeing the same happening to us Papuans once again at the hands of the Indonesian state.

Now Indonesia is using the crisis to crack-down on freedom of expression. Indonesian police have aggressively targetted the Komite Nasional Papua Barat (KNPB), raiding their offices and arresting six members. The ULMWP political bureau office has also been shut down by the police and members of the political bureau arrested.

From this year, Indonesia is now a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) The UNSC must urgently investigate the use of chemical weapons and suspend the Indonesian government from the Security Council for killing demonstrators and civilians. The Indonesian state must be fully investigated and held to account for the horrors it is causing in Nduga.

Indonesia is also an Associate Member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) but is killing Melanesian people with bombs and guns. How can Indonesia claim to represent Melanesians internationally when it kills them in West Papua?

Indonesia is violating international law. The use of chemical burn-causing weapons is illegal. Indonesia is flouts these treaties in its acts of extreme violence. When chemical weapons are used in Syria the world is horrified, but in West Papua the Indonesian government is able to cover up its crimes by stopping any independent organisations from entering the country and then launch brutal military operations afterwards. This episode is more evidence of the desperate need for West Papua to have freedom from the colonial occupation of the Indonesian state.

The ULMWP calls for:

  • Indonesia to grant the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights access to West Papua, and to complete a thorough Fact-Finding mission in West Papua in accordance with the UN General Assembly resolution 46/59: “Declaration on Fact-finding by the United Nations in the Field of the Maintenance of International Peace and Security”;
  • The Pacific Islands Forum to create an urgent Fact-Finding Mission to West Papua to examine reports of chemical weapon use and killing of civilians, especially in Nduga;
  • The Melanesian Spearhead Group to send an urgent Fact-Finding Mission to West Papua to examine reports of chemical weapon use and killing of civilians, especially in Nduga;
  • For Indonesia to grant immediate access for humanitarian aid organisations to relieve the suffering of West Papuans in Nduga.

Benny Wenda
Chairman of The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP)
Ch[email protected]
January 21, 2018

ULMWP International Secretariat
Winston Churchill Street,
1571 Port Vila, Republic of Vanuatu

For details of victims of the Indonesian operations and further calls from the ULMWP, see ‘ULMWP Statement on the Nduga Crisis’, here.