Human rights activists are awaiting help for the indigenous people of Papua

Angela Merkel travels to Indonesia (July 9th to 11th)

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) hopes that the visit of Chancellor Angela Merkel might bring help for the Papua natives who are suffering from severe human rights violations and the destruction of the rainforest. "We are hoping that the Chancellor will advocate for a credible dialogue between the Papua and the Indonesian government, to come to an agreement – finally, after 50 years of civil war," said the STP's Asia-consultant, Ulrich Delius, in Göttingen on Monday. "Pressure from Germany might expedite the peace process and encourage Indonesia to take the protection of the environment in West Papua more seriously."

"The Chancellor should follow the example of the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who – during a discussion with the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last week – had urged to ensure human rights in Papua." Since 2011, the situation in West Papua has continued to deteriorate. 16 people got killed due to politically motivated violence in May 2012 alone. Just recently – end of last week – three people died in an unresolved exchange of fire. Indonesian human rights activists of the KontraS (Commission for “the Disappeared” and Victims of Violence) have urged the president to develop more initiatives to resolve the Papua conflict. President Yudhoyono opposed to this and played down the extent of the violence. The Papuans have been calling for West Papua to become independent ever since the illegal annexation of the former Dutch colony in the 60s.

Christian Churches and Papua human rights activists have been calling for an end to arbitrary arrests, torture and politically motivated murders in West Papua for years. Regularly, Papua activists become victims of human rights violations because of being suspected of campaigning for an independent Papua state. The Papuans are also fighting against the destruction of their forests, which can be seen as the "green lung" of Southeast Asia with 1.7 million hectares. "If the chancellor wants to contribute to the protection of the forests – as announced before the visit to Indonesia – she must also campaign for the preservation of the rainforests in West Papua," said Delius. Last year, five million hectares of forest were cut down, including several hundred thousand hectares in West Papua, despite a moratorium on deforestation in Indonesia that was met in May 2011.

Due to state-promoted immigration, the approximately 250 ethnic groups of the Papua natives now only make up around 49 percent of the 3.6 million residents of the western island of New Guinea.