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Free Papua Movement
The Free Papua Movement (Indonesian: Organisasi Papua Merdeka, abbreviated OPM) is a nationalist organization established in 1965 with the goal of establishing an independent state in the western portion of the island of Papua, which is currently under Indonesian control as the provinces of Papua and West Irian Jaya. The organization has both armed military and diplomatic branches.
While support for the organization, and Papuan independence, is not universal in the region, OPM is widely supported by many indigenous Papuans who feel they have few ties, cultural or historical, with the mainstream of Indonesia. According to OPM supporters, the region has been under military occupation by Indonesia since the 1960s (see Human rights violations in western New Guinea).
While the rest of what is now Indonesia became independent from the Netherlands shortly after World War II, the Dutch retained western Papua as a colony until 1962. Upon the Dutch withdrawal from the region, a United Nations-sponsored agreement called for the transfer of control from The Netherlands to Indonesia, with the stipulation that a referendum on the transfer be conducted in the province by 1969.
The legitimacy of this transfer was not recognized by many Papuans, and Papuan fighters and the Indonesian military fought frequent battles during the 1960s. Papuan supporters alleged several mass killings of suspected rebels by the Indonesian military during the 1960s.
In 1960 the United Nations sponsored what it called the "Act of Free Choice", a referendum on Papuan independence. The vote was nearly unanimous for integration, but this result which was widely recognized, by Papuans and representatives of foreign governments, as rigged by the Suharto administration in Jakarta.
In response to this Oom Nicolas Jouwe and two OPM commanders, Seth Jafeth Roemkorem and Jacob Hendrik Prai , planned to announce a new Papuan Independence in 1971. On 1st July 1971 Roemkorem and Prai declared a Republic of West Papua, a constitution and schedule were drafted and adopted.
Conflicts over strategy between Roemkorem and Prai soon initiated a split of the OPM, however, into a PEMKA fraction lead by Prai, and a TPN fraction lead by Roemkorem. This greatly weakened OPM's ability as a centralized combat force. It remains widely used, however, invoked by both contemporary fighters and domestic and expatriate political activists.
In 1982 a OPM Revolutionary Council (OPMRC) was established, and under the chairmanship of Moses Werror the OPMRC has sought independence through an International Diplomacy campaign. OPMRC aims to obtain international recogition for West Papuan independence through international forums such as the United Nations, The Non Aligned Movement of Nations, The South Pacific Forum, and The Association of South East Asian Nations.
In 1984 OPM staged an attack on Jayapura, the provincial capital and a city dominated by non-Melanesian Indonesians from elsewhere in the archipelago. The attack was quickly repelled by the Indonesian military, which used it as a pretense for broader counterinsurgency activity. This triggered an exodus of Papuan refugees, apparently supported by the OPM, into camps across the border in Papua New Guinea.
In the mid-1990s, the organization gained renewed prominence and greater support among indigenous Papuans. This was fuelled in large part by anger over the actions of the gold mining corporation Freeport-McMoRan, which is accused of environmental destruction and of supporting human rights abuses by the Indonesian military. In separate incidents in January and August 1996, OPM captured hostages, both European and Indonesian, first from a research group and later from a logging camp. Two hostages from the latter group were killed, and the rest were released.
- Bell, Ian; Herb Feith; and Ron Hatley (1986). The West Papuan challenge to Indonesian authority in Irian Jaya: old problems, new possiblities. Asian Survey 26(5):539-556.
- Bertrand, Jaques (1997). "Business as Usual" in Suharto's Indonesia. Asian Survey 37(6):441-452.
- Evans, Julian (1996). Last stand of the stone age. The Guardian Weekend. August 24:p. T20.
- van der Kroef, Justus M (1968). West New Guinea: the uncertain future. Asian Survey 8(8):691-707.
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