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Massive protests are expected Wednesday in West Papua, as demonstrators clashed with the security forces on Tuesday.
Indonesia deployed more troops Tuesday to West Papua, as protests are expanding to various communities in the region, with reports of injuries and violent attacks that contradict previous statements by the Indonesian government that assured that the unrest was contained.
President Joko Widodo's top Security Minister, Wiranto, told reporters on Tuesday that Jakarta will deploy more troops to the region to forestall protests on Wednesday, when demonstrators are expected to hold bigger gatherings.
Thousands of Papuans took the streets of the cities of Sorong, Manokwari, and Jayapura Monday, blocking roads, damaging an airport and torching government buildings.
The protests were triggered by the detention of 43 Papuan students in the East Java city of Surabaya over accusations that they had disrespected the country's flag in front of a dormitory during celebrations of Independence Day of Indonesia on Saturday.
Police fired tear gas into the dormitory before arresting the students, according to an activist, who said they had been called “monkeys” during the operation.
On Tuesday, the situation was calm in some areas, but Papua’s deputy governor, Mohamad Lakotani, confirmed that about 200 more police officers had been sent to Sorong from the island of Sulawesi amid rising tension.
An independence movement has simmered for decades in the resource-rich area of Papua, where there have been frequent complaints of rights abuses by Indonesian security forces.
Rights groups urged the Indonesian police to act with restraint and investigate the accusations of racism and discrimination faced by Papuan students.
“Indonesian authorities must act promptly to de-escalate tensions in West Papua province and guarantee that people who wish to protest peacefully can continue to do so,” Usman Hamid, the Indonesia executive director of rights group Amnesty International, said in a statement.