Indonesia might rank well compared to some of its Southeast Asian neighbours in democracy indexes, but it’s not a reality felt by activists in West Papua. In fact, those who struggle for Papuan independence in opposition to the Jakarta administration are routinely arrested and imprisoned.
West Papua’s current place as part of Indonesia comes from a fraught and controversial history. Indonesia argues that the people of West Papua had voted to live under Indonesian rule via a referendum known as the “Act of Free Choice” in 1969. Many Papuans, though, point out that less than 1% of the population had been able to vote in the referendum, and that most Papuans hadn’t actually had a choice at all.
For more background, read our explainer on West Papua.
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