The Freedom Flotilla's flagship yacht, "The Pog" with six protestors, has left Thursday Island towards West Papua. Meanwhile, reports say the Indonesia security forces are preparing themselves for a possible showdown with demonstrators. Reports say, around 2500 security personnel have arrived at the Flotilla's destination port of Merauke, anticipating trouble.
"One small yacht, the Pog, has set sail west from Thursday Island towards West Papua. Her crew, a dedicated group of six from Australia, New Zealand, Kenya and West Papua are determined to complete their mission to build global solidarity and highlight the abuses of human rights and land rights carried out under the Indonesian occupation of West Papua," a media release by the Freedom Flotilla organisers said.
Allying fears of the Indonesia Navy that the yacht may potentially be armed, Izzy Brown, co-founder Freedom Flotilla said they have made the point clear from the start of their journey.
"We come in peace, bearing no arms," she said. Brown said that the world is aware of the location of the demonstrators though satellite tracker available on the group's Web site.
"If one unarmed yacht carrying six people justifies a military response from Indonesia, what would they have done if their country was invaded by tens of thousands of paratroopers, marines and army personnel as happened to our land West Papua in Operation Trikora in 1962?", questioned Jacob Rumbiak, another member of the team.
Meanwhile, Indonesia has claimed that the 2,500 troops reported to have been sent to Merauke in late August was just a 'normal rotation.' "What kind of 'normal' situation is a constant military presence of at least 5000 military personel in a town of 80,000?" asked Ruben Blake of the Freedom Flotilla, calling the troop build-up unjustified.
The protest organisers claim that the troops are on alert at the moment not only to stop the Freedom Flotilla, but ready to crack down against any peaceful demonstrations or welcoming ceremonies for the Freedom Flotilla. The organisers' press release said, troops arrived in Merauke on the same day when in Sorong four community leaders were arrested and charged with treason after organising a congregation to pray for the safe passage of the Freedom Flotilla.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian Navy has said, that if group was unarmed, "we'll try to have some dialogue with them," an offer which was welcomed by Freedom Flotilla organisers.
Reports say, "The Pog" is expected to reach the West Papuan border in the coming days.
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