Indonesia invaded West Papua in 1961, obliging the Dutch to accept that the territory be placed under UN transitional administration. However, in 1963, it was handed over to Indonesia subject to a consultation with the population. This ‘Act of Free Choice’ took place in 1969, and consisted of 1,022 Papuan men handpicked by the Indonesian military raising their hands to agree that they would rather be Indonesian citizens than have independence. Indonesian forces have been responsible for the death of more than 100,000 Papuans since the 1961 invasion – their lethal violence ranging from aerial bombardment to extra-judicial execution. The guerrilla resistance remains, but lacks coordination and today guerrilla forces are estimated as around 1,000. At the same time, continued Indonesian settlement in Papua means that the proportion of non-Papuans in the population has risen to 48%.
Since the fall of Suharto in 1998, armed struggle has been rather supplanted by civil mobilization. Dissent took the form of raising the Morning Star flag (the banned symbol symbol of national and cultural identity), large demonstrations, and the formation of human rights and pro-independence organisations. In 2001, Indonesia conceded a nominal ‘special autonomy’ (Otsus), which served to protect Indonesian interests in Papua – including access to forests, minerals and offshore natural resources but did not satisfy Papuan grievances. For a period, Papuans mounted campaigns around more limited objectives than full ‘independence’ – for instance, against logging and palm planting, and also against the Freeport McMoran/Rio Tinto gold and copper mine where, in 2006, indigenous workers organised a trade union (and subsequently strikes in 2007 and 2011).
In 2009-10, a popular campaign began against ‘Special Autonomy’ – a symbolic coffin headed one demonstration, and in June 2010 protesters occupied parliament for two days demanding that their representatives open new negotiations and demand a referendum on independence. In October 2011, the third Papuan People’s Congress – a three-day gathering of extra-parliamentary groups – declared independence. Subsequently this declaration has been read at various demonstrations in Papua, while the Indonesian repression has been especially targeted at the KNPB (the West Papua National Committee, a nonviolent pro-independence group) which has been driven underground.
http://www.freewestpapua.org is a campaigning site which lists resources.