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On October 26, 2015, President Obama will meet with Indonesia's President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.
Beginning in May 1963, West Papua was occupied by Indonesia with U.S. government support and encouragement. By 1969, Indonesia had annexed the territory. Over the course of five decades, West Papuans have suffered mass killings, torture, rape, and the loss of their culture and lands. U.S. corporations like the mining giant Freeport McMoRan have devastated the environment. At least 100,000 Papuans are estimated to have died as a result of Indonesian rule. In addition, the region has been so inundated with migrants that indigenous Papuans are no longer a majority in their own land.
The U.S. continues to arm and train the security forces that repress the West Papuan people. The Indonesian government's attempts to conceal the truth about West Papua include banning foreign journalists and UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights from visiting the territory. While President Widodo has announced several positive initiatives, elements in his government, including the security forces, are resisting change and the human rights violations continue.
The West Papuans continue to resist Indonesian rule. Groups supporting self-determination recently came together in the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) in a broad coalition to press their case within West Papua and internationally.
Restrictions on security assistance from the United States were important in Timor-Leste (East Timor) gaining their independence from Indonesia. The U.S. should again restrict training and weapons to Indonesia in support of the rights of West Papuans.