Monday, February 26, 2007

Elsham claims evacuees starving in Puncak Jaya

Diaz Gwijangge, a representative of the Papua-based Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy (Elsham), told Fabio Scarpello of the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) that about 5,600 people were surviving in Puncak Jaya regency, Papua province, by eating leaves and what little was offered by the local churches, while hiding in the forest having fleeing their homes in early December.

"They fled after the military and the police attacked the area after a flag of the Free Papua Movement was hoisted. Now they are too scared to return," Mr Gwijangge said. "At least four people have already died of hunger and disease, and the toll is bound to rise fast, unless help is delivered soon," the activist said.

Elsham claims evacuees two days' walk from the nearest town, difficult to reach, and infested with mosquitoes carrying malaria and dengue fever. To make matters worse, the evacuees - fearing a military reprisal - have reportedly cut most of the rope bridges that link the area to the outside world.

The plight of the refugees was reportedly confirmed by local religious leaders, but denied by the security forces, who called it "a trumped-up story".

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