Asia-Pacific

Papua autonomy protests challenge Jakarta

West Papuan protester's face, painted as the banned separatist flag, 8 July 2010
Image caption A West Papuan protester paints his face with the banned separatist flag

Hundreds of protesters in West Papua have continued their demonstrations rejecting the province's special autonomy status.

The protesters, who camped outside the provincial parliament in Jayapura overnight, say they will not leave until their demands are heard by the government in Jakarta.

The peaceful rally began on Thursday in Jayapura, the provincial capital.

West Papua is Indonesia's most remote and least developed province.

Beny Giay, one of the organisers of the protest, told the BBC they will not leave until their demands for dialogue on a referendum for independence are met by the government.

Autonomy debate

But police say that while the protesters had a permit to hold a peaceful demonstration on Thursday, their gathering is now illegal.

Imam Setiawan, Jayapura's police chief, told the BBC police are ready to disperse the protesters with force.

He admits his officers could even use live ammunition but only as a last resort.

Representatives of the Papuan assembly delivered a list of their demands to the Indonesian government in Jakarta on Thursday.

They say the special autonomy status which the province was granted in 2001 has failed the Papuan people because it has not raised the standard of living for the province's population.

Human rights groups say despite a large reserve of natural resources Papua remains one of the least developed parts of Indonesia.

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