The logging of West Papua

Down to Earth No 55  November 2002

Human rights abuses connected to the logging industry will increase in West Papua as more forests are destroyed and the Indonesian security forces continue their business activities in a climate of impunity.

In July 2002, West Papuan human rights group ELSHAM reported a series of logging-related human rights abuses committed between February and June 2002 by members of the Indonesian armed forces stationed in sub-districts around Jayapura. The report documents a number of cases in which Papuans were forced to hand over logs to members of the military. They were threatened with guns, beaten and, in one case, forced to crawl on the ground and eat soil.

The perpetrators were members of the elite special forces, Kopassus, and members of Infantry Battalion 126 of the Bukit Barisan command. The ELSHAM report also lists the names of eleven rape victims, aged between 15 and 28, and states that the troops stationed around Yetti village also poisoned rivers using toxic chemicals to obtain fish. Bukit Barisan Infantry Battalion 126, which has been stationed in the Arso area since October 2001, has been running its logging business in secret, using military and civilian trucks to transport stolen timber to town.

In one incident, in June, members of Kopassus intercepted a truck carrying timber belonging to Reverend Augustinus Jibu Franz, chairman of a local foundation, with the intention of seizing the timber. The troops were using a car belonging to logging company Bumi Iriana Perkasa. "One member of Kopassus aimed his pistol at the Reverend, but another Kopassus member prevented the shooting." The Kopassus troops then enlisted the help of the police to prevent the truck reaching town. (ELSHAM report, Army's Tainted logging business in Papua, received by email 21/Jul/02)

These are some of the more recent incidents in a long and violent history of state-sanctioned plunder in West Papua. Mineral wealth, timber, land and marine resources belonging to Papuans have been systematically exploited by Indonesian and foreign companies over the past three decades. Until very recently, almost all revenues were channelled directly to Jakarta - a cause of deep-seated resentment in West Papua which helps fuel the independence movement. The Indonesian military and police have played a key role: both by enforcing and maintaining the dispossession of indigenous Papuan land-owners for the benefit of outside commercial enterprises and by setting up business ventures to exploit West Papua's natural wealth themselves. The lucrative opportunities provide a strong incentive for the military to provoke conflicts in West Papua in order to justify their presence. A major new report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) which explores resources and conflict in West Papua, puts it like this:

"…Indonesia does not fully fund the military and police budgets, with the result that both institutions earn much of their income from extortion and other crimes including illegal logging and mining. This involvement with rent-seeking and illegality is dangerous because it gives the security forces a vested interest in conflicts and, some would argue, a reason to keep conflicts going…."

(Indonesia: Resources and Conflict in Papua, ICG, p.29)

Just 25%-30% of the military budget is supplied by state funding, with the rest coming from "extra-budgetary activities". These include direct robbery (as in the cases described by ELSHAM) and earning protection money from mining, oil and logging companies. In West Papua, the security forces are also involved in the illegal wildlife trade.

According to a soldier quoted in the ELSHAM report, troops only get Rp 7,000 (US$ 0.77) per day and are permitted by their seniors in Papua to engage in the timber trade and logging to supplement this inadequate allowance. In this particular part of Papua at least, they also make money by illegally charging "passing fees" of between Rp 10,000 to Rp 50,000 (US$ 5.5) on timber transported by commercial companies and local people at check-points along roads.

The military also profits directly from logging by investing in business ventures - mostly through a network of foundations (Yayasan). The military owns or has interests in around 250 businesses nationally through these unregulated, untransparent business vehicles. In West Papua, the Yayasan belonging to the elite Kopassus force part-owns the logging company PT Hanurata, which operates south of the capital, Jayapura.

Military officers are also reported to be shareholders in one of the largest timber companies in Indonesia - the Jayanti Group (see also box below). There are strong links to the old political establishment too: both Jayanti and Hanurata are also co-owned by members of the Suharto family. According to ICG, the military is reported to be involved in road-building linked to logging. New roads are often paid for by allowing the construction company to fell and sell the timber cleared during road-building. The local military command in Sorong is alleged to run a sawmill on an island off Papua's western coast.

Complex connections have also emerged between the logging and the pro-independence organisation, the Papuan Presidium Council (PDP). Media reports have connected financially both PTHanurata and Jayanti to Theys Eluay, the PDP leader who was murdered late last year. Kopassus officers are believed to have killed him. However, suggestions that the assassination was linked to logging are seen by most Papuans as an attempt to distract attention from the overriding suspicion that this was a political killing and part of a concerted effort to get rid of prominent Papuans who oppose Jakarta's rule.


Violence and intimidation: recent cases involving logging companies

  • PT Darma Mukti Persada: operating in Wasior sub-district, Manokwari district, has been involved in a long-running dispute with local communities who want fair compensation. In March 2001, three staff were shot dead at the logging company site by an armed group. Members of the notoriously brutal police mobile brigade (Brimob) and army troops blamed the armed wing of the OPMindependence movement and launched an operation to hunt down the killers. This resulted in several reprisal killings, detention and torture of local people and house-burnings in local villages. Human rights defenders and church organisations were prevented from entering the area. In June 2001, five members of Brimob were killed by armed men. The Brimob were stationed in Wondiboi village at the base camp of another logging company, named in different reports as PT Prima Jaya Sukses Lestari and Vatika Papuana Perkasa. This prompted a further Brimob/army operation which terrorised the whole region for months afterwards. Amnesty International recently issued a report on these events: see
  • Jayanti: logging companies belonging to this conglomerate operating in the Bintuni Bay area have been involved in cases of intimidation of villagers in the area. ICG reports that villagers at Tofoi have been intimidated by members of Brimob stationed at Jayanti's base camp. The company holds 420,000 hectares of concessions including a 100,000 hectare clear-felled area it is converting to oil palm. According to the Far Eastern Economic Review, Jayanti pays a 20-man police detachment "to enforce land grabs from local residents." Jayanti also operates fishing companies and plantations in West Papua. Its shareholders include Suharto's cousin, Sudwikatmono and former officials and military personnel. The group has huge financial problems (see Forests, People and RightsDebt and the forestry industry) and has recently been accused by Fak-Fak's district head of illegal logging outside its concessions. (FEER 27/Dec/01; ICG Sep/02 and other sources.)
  • PT Wapoga Mutiara Timber: Members of the Kopassus special forces assigned to guard this logging firm shot dead a woman during a dispute between the company and a local man, identified as Martinus Maware, at the company's office. According to ELSHAM, Maware was shot in the leg and rushed to hospital. The woman, a treasurer of the company who was named as Lesi Iba, was shot in the mouth and died on the spot at Bongko, some 130 kilometres (81 miles) west of Jayapura. (AFP 22/Jan/02)


Logging boom - 14 years left?

West Papua still hosts vast areas of forest - reckoned to cover over 33 million hectares in 1997 - or over three quarters of the territory's land surface. There are currently 53 large-scale HPH logging concessions in West Papua, covering between 11 and 13 million ha, plus hundreds of small-scale concessions issued since 1998.*

Most of the large concessions were handed out to well-connected business and military associates during the Suharto era. But the inaccessibility of these areas and the fact that these forests tend to have less commercially valuable timber meant that the pace of logging was slower than in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi. Some companies also ran into determined resistance from indigenous landowners. As a result, even with extra tax incentives to encourage logging in West Papua, rates of deforestation have been lower than in other timber-rich areas.

Between 1985 and 1997, forest cover was reduced by around 1.8 million hectares compared with 10 million ha in Kalimantan and 6.5 million ha in Sumatra. Last year, Kompas reported that 45 of 54 HPHs were active, each cutting an average of around 25,000 cubic metres of timber per year, just 22% of the cutting target. (This does not include illegally-felled timber). Log production from West Papua between 1995-2000 was 1.7 million cubic metres per year or 37% of the target of 4.5 million cubic metres per year. Most logs were sent to other islands for processing. Development of timber estates has been non-existent and plantation development has been slow by comparison with other areas.

But now West Papua is experiencing a logging boom, driven by in part by the scarcity of timber on other islands. In 1999, the World Bank predicted that all lowland commercially viable forests in Sumatra and Kalimantan would be exhausted within five to ten years. Three years on, the inevitable shift eastward is now happening. ICG reports that companies who have logged in Kalimantan are already appearing in West Papua. The focus of the current timber boom appears to be the Bird's Head region in the west of the territory, as orders from Malaysian and Chinese log importers pour in. Hotel rooms in the port of Sorong are said to be booked up with so many foreign log importers in town to strike logging deals. The timber species merbau (Intsia bijuga) - a type of ironwood - is particularly sought after: it has been logged out on other islands.

Asian timber companies are not only buying up huge amounts of West Papua's timber, but are also directly involved in exploitation. Last year, reports circulated that a Korean company had made an agreement with the Papuan administration to fund a major road project by logging a 5km swathe of forest either side of the route. Another Korean company, You Liem Sari, is among the long-standing foreign-owned HPH concession holders operating in West Papua, and another, Kodeco, is reported to be clearing forests for oil palm plantations in the Mamberamo area, in the north of West Papua.

If the predictions of environmental group WALHI are right, Papua's vast forests will only last another 14 years from now. (See WALHI, Moratorium mendukung industri yang efisien, July 2001.)

* Figures differ according to source. ICG puts the total area of timber concessions at 13 million hectares in 2001, FWI/GFW at 11.5 in 1998. The total land area of West Papua is around 41 million hectares.


West Papua Forest figures

Forest cover (1997) 33.4 million ha (FWI/WRI 2002)*
Forest as percentage of land area 81% (FWI/WRI 2002)
Area covered by HPH concessions 2001    
(54 concessions) 13 million ha (ICG 2002)
Deforestation rate (to 1997) 117,523 ha/year (MI 7/Nov/01)
Conversion forest 2,7 million ha (FWI/WRI 2002)
Area of approved plantations 292,780 (FWI/WRI 2002)
Area allocated to HTI timber estates 1.6 million ha  
(10 companies)    
- of which planted 0 ha (FWI/WRI 200

The State of the Forest: Indonesia: Forest Watch Indonesia/ Global Forest Watch, 2002.


Small-scale logging concessions

Joining the large concession-holders in the recent logging boom are a new breed of logging outfits, which hold small-scale concession permits called IHPHH. Hundreds of these have been handed out by district heads (Bupatis) in West Papua, under the government's decentralisation measures. These 100 ha concessions are supposed to be managed by local communities through co-operatives (Kopermas), but are often manipulated or bought up by timber entrepreneurs with the help of local officials. As there is no supervision or accurate mapping, the IHPHH system is far more destructive than the term 'small-scale logging' implies. Central government has ordered Bupatis to stop issuing these licences, but to little effect. (For more information about small-scale logging concessions see DTE special report Forests People and Rights, p. 31)

According to Papuan regional assembly member Sam Rusoeboen, companies are manipulating the Kopermas scheme by paying people to log as much wood as possible. The practice is hard to stamp out, because almost all local officials are involved.

In the Bird's Head region and the Raja Ampat islands, collusion between local officials, military/police and local timber companies - the Sorong 'timber mafia' - has led to a sharp increase in forest destruction, both within areas covered by permits but also in protected areas and nature reserves. According to one report, the Sorong Bupati, John Piet Wanane, has issued IHPHH permits for strict nature reserves in the Raja Ampat Islands. The famed corals of these islands, are reported to be suffering from suffocation due to soil erosion caused by logging.

In some areas, transmigrants are being paid by townspeople to log land near transmigration sites, either illegally or through co-operatives. Forests near transmigration sites, which are connected to towns by roads, are often more easily accessible than other forests, so it is easier to get the logs out. The process may well be exacerbating tensions between the traditional land-owning Papuans and non-Papuan settlers.


Illegal exports
The rampant corruption in Sorong means that the export ban on raw logs imposed by Jakarta last October, is routinely flouted. Under pressure from timber barons, Papua's governor, Jaap Salossa, is reported to have issued a decree in July permitting the export of merbau logs. This immediately prompted a request from forestry minister Prakosa to rescind the decree. Since October last year, several ships containing illegal cargos of Papuan logs have been detained near Sorong and then released again (with their timber still on board). Despite reports of impending legal action, not one case has yet made it to the courts. (See below for a summary of recent cases.)


Special Autonomy
The tussle over export bans mirrors the wider tug of war between central government and the resource rich regions which has characterised Indonesia's decentralisation process as a whole. West Papua's 'Special Autonomy' package, which came into effect on January 1st this year, does offer more benefits than the 'normal' autonomy introduced in Indonesia. It gives West Papua 70% of oil and gas royalties (to be reviewed after a 25 year period) and 80% of mining, forestry and fisheries royalties (see DTE 51), and establishes a Papuan Peoples Council (MRP) to protect the customary rights of Papuans. However, Special Autonomy does not transfer meaningful political control to the territory, nor does it provide for demilitarisation. Meanwhile, the security forces continue their campaign of violence against West Papua's political opposition and human rights defenders and carry on their 'business activities' with impunity. Under these conditions, Special Autonomy is unlikely to have the intended impact of undermining the widely popular independence movement.


Land rights and human rights
Central to the conflict over resources in West Papua is the fact that the customary (adat) rights of Papuans (and other indigenous communities in Indonesia) over forested areas are subjugated to the interests of 'development' - state-run or commercial interests like transmigration, logging, mining, commercial fishing and plantation development. Typically communities are offered token amounts of compensation and are forced or coerced into signing away their claims to outsiders. These companies then pay Brimob or military units to enforce their occupation of indigenous lands. People who resist are likely to be branded as members of the pro-independence OPM and subject to arrest, and/or human rights abuses, or, on occasions, simply killed.

Special Autonomy does offer some scope for more indigenous control over the land, but the first draft of the law which was written by Papuans in West Papua was significantly watered down in Jakarta before it was passed by parliament. There is the odd sign that communities are using Special Autonomy's new emphasis on adat rights to stand up to logging companies: the Australian reported in January this year that one local community managed to force PT Hanurata to hand back 10,000 hectares of forest and is now trying to get back all 185,000 ha. However, under current conditions, there is not much scope for most indigenous communities to regain control over their lands.

For a full list of HPH companies in West Papua see our web-page chph.htm, forwarded by Forest Watch Indonesia,


ICG recommends logging moratorium

The ICG report, Indonesia: Resources and Conflict in Papua, makes important connections between resource extraction, the financial interests of the security forces and the ongoing conflict in West Papua. It considers the impact of Special Autonomy, the role of adat and pays particular attention to the logging industry, the Freeport mine and BP's Tangguh gas project in Bintuni Bay.

The report starts from the position that "[t]he struggle over land and natural resource rights is a key aspect of the conflict in Papua…that pits the Indonesian state against an independence movement supported by most of the indigenous population." The report argues that Papuans are not necessarily opposed to logging or other resource extraction in itself, but resent the way they are treated by companies.

Among ICG's recommendations are:

  • a phasing out of military involvement in natural resources extraction;
  • a halt to commercial logging until a new forestry policy is prepared that gives a meaningful role to adat bodies, emphasises sustainability and includes a review of licensing mechanisms that genuinely involves local communities;
  • The setting up of a board to assess all proposals for investment and ensure that they are socially and environmentally responsible and include meaningful prior consultation with affected communities;
  • Rigorous enforcement of the log export ban.
The full report is available in pdf format from the ICG website:


Recent cases of illegal logging or illegal exports from Papua

  • April 01, 2002, Raja Ampat. A team of regional police officers seized some heavy equipment used for logging inside the Batanta Nature Reserve in the southern part of Batanta Island, Sorong district. PT. Maju Wahana Papua was one of the logging companies felling timber in the area without having any official permit to use the equipment or encroach on the nature reserve. (Eco Papua Alliance:
  • September 2001: Local leaders complained that foreign timber barons were using a co-operative run by wives of civil servants in Sorong as a front. Police seized ships, but let them go with the timber still on board. Since October 2001, five timber ships have been seized by the navy off Sorong. (ICG, 2002)
  • October 2001: Secretary General of APHI (Association of Indonesian Forest Industries) for East Kalimantan, Achmad Husry, said merbau logs from West Papua were being smuggled to Malaysia and China. (Kompas 13/Oct/2001)
  • October 2001: three ships with Malaysian, Thai and Chinese flags docked in Sorong. They were apprehended by police as they had insufficient documentation, but then were allowed to depart. According to local parliament member Rusoeboen, this happens almost every month, and the police make the excuse that the shipments leave without their knowledge. Rusoeboen called for a local regulation (Perda) banning the export of logs from West Papua. (Kompas 1/Nov/01)
  • November 2001: Batam, Riau province. Customs police detected around 2,500 tonnes (350 logs) of merbau from Papua on a ship bound for Port Klang, Malaysia. The wood was transported from Papua on 29th October and was ordered by a Malaysian timber entrepreneur called Mukhtar. The ship's captain, Hamadi, said he had been paid 3,000 Ringgit (US$ 790) to collect the wood. (Kompas 19/Nov/01)
  • November 2001: PT Papuan Nabire Development Holding and PT Prabu Alaska were two of nine timber companies given a dispensation from the ministry of industry and trade's director general of international trade, Riyanto B. Yosokumoro, to export 15,000 cubic metres through Sorong, after the October 2001 timber export ban had been implemented. (Bisnis Indonesia 27/Nov/ 01; Jakarta Post 30/Nov/01)
  • April 2002: Local people from Kaliyam village from North Salawati, asked a local NGO, PEACE, to carry out an investigation into the logging mafia who were preparing a shipment of more than 5,000 cubic metres of merbau from Salawati Nature Reserve. PEACE discovered from Mr. Ch. Y. Wh., a Malaysian who worked as a log trader, that the logs were ready to be exported to Malaysia. A thousand logs were being stored in three locations. The issue was reported to the Sorong Forest Department Service and local Natural Resource and Conservation Department. (Source: Jujur Bicara, 28 March - 2 April 2002, translated by PEACE)
  • Early 2002: four foreign vessels - the MVs Ever Wise, Afrika, Sukaria Bersama and Asean Premier - were apprehended in Sorong waters by the Indonesian Navy whilst smuggling wood out of West Papua. The Navy turned over the four boats to the Sorong police. The Afrika was immediately released after it unloaded its cargo in Sorong. It is unclear what happened to the timber. In April 2002, Sorong police also released the Ever Wise, claiming that the case came under the jurisdiction of the Manokwari police. Following the release of these two ships, the forestry minister initiated a search for the missing boats, but they had reportedly fled to China with the help of police. In May 2002, Sorong police also released the Sukaria Bersama on the grounds that Sorong forestry officials ordered them to cease investigations into the case. Papua's regional parliament was reportedly enraged at the events. Forestry minister M. Prakosa demanded that the case be re-investigated. (Tempo Magazine: June 11-17/02)
  • June 2002: Jayapura. Head of the Jayawijaya forestry office, Ir Yusuf Momot, said a number of companies holding HPH timber concessions were strongly suspected of logging in the Lorentz National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The official heard the news from local people that the companies were based in Merauke, Timika and Jayapura districts. (Antara 22/Jun/02 via
  • September 2002: ICG reported that the Bupati of Sorong, John Piet Wanane, was suspected of falsely claiming that local people consented to a number of logging licences issued by him, some of which were later cancelled by governor Salossa. Despite this, Wanane was re-elected in early 2002. (ICG, September 2002)
  • September 2002: The government's Forestry Information Centre reported that 3,500 cubic metres of merbau timber and 17 pieces of heavy equipment were seized in Kalobo village, Samate sub-district, Sorong. Three people accused of illegally bringing in and using the equipment, were named as Ir. MI, director of PT STKM, Sorong; and HK and RKS from PT WTK, Sorong. (Pusat Informasi Kehutanan press release, 12/Sep/02)

(This report draws extensively on Indonesia: Resources and Conflict in Papua, ICG Asia Report No 39, Jakarta/Brussels, Sep/02. Other sources: ICG Indonesia: next steps in military reform, Oct/01; Forest Peoples Association 22/Mar/02 posted on 1/Nov/01, 4/Sep/01; Australian 31/Jan/02)


West Papua Solidarity Meeting calls for halt to violations

The Third International Solidarity Meeting on West Papua, which met in London in October, called for pressure on the Indonesian government to prevent human rights violations by transnational companies, including Freeport, Rio Tinto and BP and by the issuing of logging concessions on customary lands belonging to indigenous Papuans.

The meeting, held in London, October, was attended by over 20 organisations from 15 countries. In a statement, participants affirmed their support for self-determination and called on the Indonesian government to enter into peaceful dialogue with the West Papuan leadership, including the Papuan Presidium Council, mediated by a third party. The statement also called for support for the proposal to declare West Papua a 'Zone of Peace', and the withdrawal of the Indonesian military and Brimob police force from West Papua. The meeting called on UN member states to request UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to review the UN's conduct in relation to the discredited "Act of Free Choice" of 1968-9 and declared its solidarity with the Jakarta-based organisation, National Solidarity with Papua. The statement expressed concern over the targeting of human rights defenders and called for a campaign to expose violations against Papuan women, including rape by the security forces and high levels of domestic violence.

(Statement, Third International Solidarity Meeting on West Papua, October 6, 2002 - copies by email are available from