Exploiting Children: The dirty, irresponsible strategy of West Papuan Armed rebel group

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(Source: Supplied, OPM-TPN Facebook)

Many have just revealed that the West Papuan armed criminal-separatist group have been exploiting children to become their ‘military’ personnel. It has been an international highlight that the West Papuan rebels have been using child soldiers in many of their operations, including when they exchange fire with the Indonesian military. We all value any effort to fight for a bright future, but the exploitation of children in that regard is nothing but abusing human rights and aiming at a dark, disheartening future for the next generation.

For decades, we have understood that children are our next generation. That understanding implies a great need to cultivate our children to be a better generation in the future in order to better all of the developments we have done. In the end, children are our hope to better our civilization.

An emerging region, West Papua relies on its children to be leaders and social cultivators in the future. Many have realized that great need and have carried out actions to pursue it.

Civil organizations are now racing to present and execute their best programs to equip West Papuan youngsters and children with necessary access to better education and health care. Many like Wahana Visi Indonesia, Kitong Bisa, and Indonesia Mengajar have provided West Papuan kids with free, yet valuable access to free quality education and health care.

Living shield

National programs such as the SM3T, for example, have sent quality teachers across West Papua to help West Papuan kids have the opportunity to taste world-class education even though they live in remote areas. Another program is sending health practitioners, including doctors and nurses, to voluntarily provide health care for those who need mainly West Papuan children. These volunteers are coming from various background, both civilians and military personnel.

All the efforts above show that commitment to allow West Papuan kids to be the next golden generation is there and people work hard to pursue that goal.

Meanwhile, some irresponsible people have taken a very different yet dangerous approach in understanding who their children are. They, sadly, see that children are meant to be manipulated and used as a living shield in a battle.

It is the West Papuan armed criminal-separatist group that has been revealed to be using children as soldiers when battling with Indonesian security forces. Media revelations have confirmed that the West Papua Liberation Army was enlisting fighters as young as 15 in its war against Indonesian authority. Around 247 international news media are covering the use of children by the West Papuan armed criminals group.

Many documentations have confirmed that the West Papuan rebel group have included children within their ranks. As reported by RNZ, Sebby Sambom from the rebel group said, “These children automatically become fighters and opponents of the colonial military of Indonesia.” Sebby even added that the underage soldiers, aged 15 to 18, currently fight in different parts of West Papua.

While the West Papuan separatists are proud of their child soldiers, according to the UN Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, it is clearly stated that 18 is the minimum legal age for the recruitment and use of people in hostilities. Further, the International Criminal Court stipulates that the involvement of children aged under 15 as soldiers is considered as a war crime.

Different perspectives

To this end, one can understand the different approaches applied significantly represent how those different communities value their children. On the one hand, one community sees that cultivating children are a crucial way to keep developing human civilization. On the other hand, another group sees children as a living weapon and shield to defend certain people’s interest within that community

If using child soldiers is a war crime, we all can see how the exploitation of those children as a real human right abuse. While some people are working hard to save and uphold West Papuan children’s rights, the West Papuan rebels are consistently abusing these kids’ rights.

Some media reported that after media exposure, the rebels promise that they will subsequently check out those children from their military personnel. But many have expressed their doubts.

The dirty strategy, involving West Papuan children in a war, has been applied for many years. Media spotlight seems to shock the West Papuan separatists, but one can see their lack of commitment to do so.

As Jacob Rumbiak said that changes are coming, which means to stop involving West Papuan kid in any fights as soldiers, such statement sounds meandering and wishy-washy. In that case, Jacob seems to know that for decades, the West Papuan separatists have employed children in their military. But due to media pressures, he came out making statements as if he did not know any rules and regulations about underage soldiers.

The revelations on the use of kid soldiers by the West Papuan separatist groups, of course, show a contrasting situation. So far, they have always been spreading propaganda that Indonesia and Indonesians keep violating human rights in West Papua. But in reality, when Indonesia and Indonesians work together and are strongly committed to repairing and upholding human rights in the region, it is the rebel group that turns out to intensely commit severe human rights violations by involving children in their military wing, which by international rules can be declared as a war crime.

These opportunistic moves confirm their low, or even no, commitment to cultivating West Papuan children to be a successful generation for West Papua in the future. While some people are working very hard on helping West Papuan children dream of being next West Papuan leaders and changemakers, those irresponsible rebels are instead consistently abusing these kids’ rights and destroying their dream to become the future leaders of their region. (*)

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