Talking Indonesia: roads, development and violence in Papua

In early December, at least 16 civilians and one soldier were killed, with five others missing, in attacks on workers constructing the Trans-Papua Highway in Nduga district in the Papuan highlands. The armed wing of the pro-independence Free Papua Movement, the TPNPB, has claimed responsibility, as part of the protracted conflict between the Indonesian government and sections of Papuan society. Indonesian police and military have launched joint operations in response, reportedly also causing several fatalities.


The two Papuan provinces – Papua and West Papua – have the lowest human development index scores in Indonesia, and the Jokowi government has placed infrastructure projects like the Trans-Papua Highway at the centre of its approach to the area. In the wake of this attack, questions inevitably arise about Papuans’ attitudes to these development projects, and more broadly, the Indonesian nation and Papuans’ place within it.


In Talking Indonesia this week, Dr Dave McRae discusses these issues with Dr Jenny Munro, an anthropologist from the University of Queensland’s School of Science, and author of the book Dreams Made Small: the Education of Papuan Highlanders in Indonesia.


Today’s episode is the final instalment of Talking Indonesia for 2018. The podcast will return on Thursday 17 January.


The Talking Indonesia podcast is co-hosted by Dr Dave McRae from the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute, Dr Jemma Purdey from Monash University, Dr Charlotte Setijadi from the Singapore Management University and Dr Dirk Tomsa from La Trobe University.


Look out for a new Talking Indonesia podcast every fortnight.  Catch up on previous episodes here, subscribe via iTunes or listen via your favourite podcasting app.


Photo by Indrianto Eko Suwarso for Antara.


Dave McRae is a Senior Lecturer at the Asia Institute in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne. He is also an Associate at the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society.