West Papua is a region consisting of the western half of the island of Papua. Since the 1960s, it has been under the repressive rule of Indonesia, which (with American support) insisted it had the right to rule West Papua as it, like Indonesia, was a former Dutch colony – even though there are no real cultural ties between the region and Indonesia’s Java-centric state, and West Papua was not part of any of the Indonesian states that existed before the period of Dutch colonisation. Indonesia has divided West Papua into two provinces.
Right through to the present day, Indonesian rule over West Papua has been highly repressive and characterised by violence. Indonesian forces have killed various leaders of the pro-independence struggle, and tortured others, with many being forced into exile. The Indonesian military was never reformed after the fall of the Suharto dictatorship and never purged of its pro-dictatorship officers, so remains highly authoritarian. There is a ban on media in West Papua, so coverage of the occupation is spotty. Indonesia has also brought in large numbers of settlers from Java, and insists that in any new referendum about West Papuan independence (the original one having been replaced with a process where Indonesia hand-picked 1,022 people to vote), all the settlers be given votes too – a measure which would basically guarantee that any referendum would fail.