Rights group warns additional military commands in Papua will worsen situation

Kompas.com – February 12, 2023
Cenderawasih XVII Regional Military Command (Kodam) Headquarters in Papua – Undated (Pacific Pos)

Vitorio Mantalean, Jakarta – The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) has warned that establishing additional regional military commands (Kodam) in the five new Papuan provinces will only worsen the humanitarian situation in the land of the Cenderawasih, as Papua is known.

Kontras Coordinator Fatia Maulidiyanti emphasised that so far there has been minimal evaluation and supervision of the militaristic approach applied by Jakarta in Papua. This approach has never been shown to resolve the humanitarian problems there.

"This of course is very dangerous because it could trigger and escalation in violence and could worsen the humanitarian situation. The state and government officials should not be reactionary in dealing with the conflicts that are occurring", Maulidiyanti told Kompas.com on Sunday February 12.

The military occupation in Papua is actually seen as contributing to the wave of internally displaced people who are constantly besieged by armed contacts between the TNI (Indonesian military) and the West Papua National Liberation Army-Free Papua Movement (TPNPB-OPM).

In addition to this, the plan to augment the number of regional military commands will in fact be counter-productive in terms of the state's efforts through National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) to achieve a humanitarian pause.

Moreover the humanitarian pause being sought by Komnas HAM has not yet succeeded because of the minimal representation by Papuan people. "The TNI and TPNPB are actually engaged in hostilities and this is also the basis of the military operations in Papua itself", said Maulidiyanti.

The government has also never clearly announced the security status in Papua. So there is concern that the deployment of more armed troops to Papua, including by adding new regional military commands, will endanger the accountability of security operations there.

Earlier, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto said that they plan to establish regional military commands in every province in Indonesia, including the four new provinces in Papua, namely Central Papua, South Papua, South-West Papua and the Papua Highlands.

"There are 38 provinces (in all) right. Currently (the number of) Kodam is 15. It will perhaps be the same (for) the new provinces, yes", said Prabowo at the Lanud Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport in East Jakarta on Saturday February 11.

Prabowo revealed that the plan to establish regional military commands in all of Indonesia's provinces is still being finalised.

According to Prabowo, the realisation of this plan will begin in stages. "We're continuing to discuss it. God willing we can begin bit by bit", said Prabowo.

He then explained why there must be regional military commands in every province, saying that Indonesia's defense system emphasises a joint and total people's defense (pertahanan rakyat semesta). Therefore there has to be cooperation between local governments and the civilian population.

"So we always need to work together with local governments, always with civilian governments. Always side by side. The same as the police that are heading in that direction, in every province there is a Polda (regional police)", said Prabowo.

"And now in every province we will raise the troop presence to a Kodam. Currently there are only Korem [sub-regional military commands]. That's our plan", he reiterated.


The TNI's territorial command structure mandates the deployment of military command posts and detachments at all levels of the civil administration: provincial, district, sub-district and village. This structure provides the organisational framework for the TNI to act as a political security force at all levels of society.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Kontras Ingatkan Penambahan Kodam di Papua Akan Perburuk Situasi Kemanusiaan".]

Source: https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2023/02/12/17315471/kontras-ingatkan-penambahan-kodam-di-papua-akan-perburuk-situasi-kemanusiaan