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Indonesia cuts off Internet in Papua to curb further violence

JAKARTA: Indonesia has cut off Internet access in eastern Papua to prevent provocative posts online from fuelling violence, after protesters torched buildings, a market and a prison over mistreatment of students and perceived ethnic discrimination.

Police have flown in 1,200 additional officers to Papua to quell sometimes violent protests since Monday in several towns, including Timika - which stands near the giant Grasberg copper mine operated by Freeport McMoRan's Indonesian unit - as well as Manokwari, Sorong and Fakfak.

Indonesia's Chief Security Minister, police chief and military commander visited Sorong yesterday to inspect where the protests erupted, but there were no reports of fresh demonstrations there.

While a separatist movement has simmered for decades in Papua, with frequent complaints of rights abuses levelled against Indonesian security forces, the recent anger appears to be linked to racist slurs against Papuan students who were detained last week.

The students were arrested from their dormitory in the city of Surabaya in East Java after being accused of disrespecting the Indonesian flag during a celebration of Indonesia's Independence Day.

Indonesia's Communication Ministry has blocked access to telecommunication data and Internet to prevent Papuans from accessing social media since Wednesday night, though calls and text messages will still work, Mr Ferdinandus Setu, ministry spokesman said.

"This is an effort to curb hoax and most importantly stop people from sharing provocative messages that can incite racial hatred," he said, adding that the curb may be lifted "if the situation has calmed".

Police have arrested 20 people in Timika, where thousands of protesters threw rocks at a parliament building, houses, shops and a hotel on Wednesday, Mr Dedi Prasetyo, a national police spokesman said by telephone from Sorong. - REUTERS

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