Both moves signal the army is dictating Papua policy, says Sidney Jones, head of the Jakarta office of the International Crisis Group. A cycle of tit-for-tat violence may have begun: on Dec. 1, a Papuan mob stabbed to death an Indonesian soldier in apparent retaliation for the killing last month of at least 10 alleged members of the Free Papua Movement. Such incidents will make any crackdown more severe, says Jones: "The military see Papua as a threat to Indonesia's territorial integrity. They intend to crush the autonomy movement."
Shortly after the fall of Indonesia's authoritarian Suharto government in 1998, the country's remote, resource-rich Papua province seemed on the verge of gaining autonomy from Jakarta. But two ominous developments last week indicate that the resurgent Indonesian military may be about to bring the boot down hard on Papua's separatists, just as it did earlier this year in Aceh province. First came the appointment of Timbul Silaen as Papua's new police chiefthe same job he held in Dili during East Timor's 1999 bloody independence drive. Silaen is still wanted by Dili prosecutors for his alleged connections to militia that killed more than 1,000 independence supporters (he was acquitted of similar charges in Jakarta). Meanwhile, the most notorious of Dili's militia leaders, Eurico Guterres, is establishing a branch of his Red and White Defenders Front in Papua. Sentenced to 10 years in jail by a Jakarta court for his part in East Timor killings, Guterres is free on bail pending an appeal.