Hundreds demonstrate in Indonesia for an independent Papua province

Security forces clashed with hundreds of rock-throwing protesters at an independence day rally Thursday in Papua province, police and witnesses said. There were no reports of injuries.

Students, laborers and civil servants yelled "free Papua" as they blocked roads near the state university in the provincial capital, Jayapura, police chief Lt. Col. Paulus Waterpauw said.

Some threw rocks at police and at the university, breaking windows and damaging a police vehicle, he said, adding that several people had been detained.

The demonstrators were marking the anniversary of failed efforts by Papuan tribal chiefs to declare independence from Dutch colonial rule in Dec. 1, 1961.

Two years later Indonesia seized control of Papua, and formalized its sovereignty over the region in 1969 through a stage-managed vote by about 1,000 community leaders, which critics dismissed as a sham.

A small, poorly armed separatist movement has battled Indonesian rule ever since. About 100,000 Papuans _ one-sixth of the population _ are estimated to have died in military operations.

The resource-rich yet desperately poor province, formerly known as Irian Jaya, occupies the western half of New Guinea island, AP reported. V.A.

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