A group of students from West Papua have claimed that two bags of snakes were thrown into their dormitory amid ongoing civil unrest in Indonesia’s easternmost region.
The Kamasan III Surabaya Dormitory in East Java has been at the centre of protests over racism and self-determination that have erupted across Papua regional cities since mid-August.
The initial demonstrations followed reports of racist slurs fired at Papuan students, whose accommodation was tear-gassed during their detention in the city of Surabaya on Indonesia’s Independence Day for allegedly desecrating the national flag.
Their dormitory was surrounded by a baying mob and 43 students were arrested and later released without charge. Many have since returned to Papua in fear.
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In the latest incident, students at the facility said that they were woken in the middle of the night by the sound of four people on motorcycles who rode past and threw two bags of snakes inside.
One student, Yohanes Giyai, said that one sack contained a snake weighing 15 to 20kg, which has been secured. The other sack, contained three more aggressive – and presumed venomous – snakes, which have yet to be caught.
“We feel intimidation, terror and fear because three aggressive snakes have not been found until now,” Mr Giyai told the ABC. "We hope there will be no victims."
The claims were downplayed by Dr H Wiranto, Indonesia’s coordinating political, legal and security minister.
“We’re currently investigating [the incident], but I don’t think anyone would ever catch snakes and throw them like that,” he told the Jakarta Post.
The East Java Police have also urged the public not to be provoked by the snake throwing allegations.
The initial accusations of racism against the dorm students sparked Papua’s most serious civil strife in years and at least four people have been killed.
Some protesters have demanded a referendum on independence, which has gained no traction with the government in Jakarta.
Papua and West Papua provinces, the resource-rich western part of the island of New Guinea, were formerly a Dutch colony that was incorporated into Indonesia after a widely criticised U.N.-backed referendum in 1969.
The Indonesian police alleged on Monday that separatist leader Benny Wenda, who has political asylum in Britain, had provided funding for his network of supporters, and instructed them to organise mass gatherings and prepare weapons.
However, Mr Wenda denied orchestrating the protests in a telephone call with Reuters.