Manokwari (Indonesia) (AFP)

Riots erupted Monday in the Indonesian province of Papua and a regional parliament was burned, while thousands of protesters protested against the arrest of pro-independence students.

Protesters took to the streets of Manokwari, the capital of the western Papua region of some 130,000 inhabitants, whose parliament was destroyed by the flames.

Residents also set fire to shops and vehicles, ripped off road signs and thrown stones at government buildings, according to an AFP journalist on site who estimated the total number of protesters to be several thousand.

Indonesian Security Minister Wiranto (who, like many Indonesians, has only one name), called for calm and announced an investigation into the events leading to the riots in Manokwari, which also caused unrest in the country. several other cities in the province on Monday.

"It really disrupted the unity of our nation," he said.

These riots are the last sign of violence in a region marked by sporadic independence rebellion against the Indonesian government.

During the riots, three policemen were injured in Manokwari by stone throwing, according to the authorities. There was no information available on wounded demonstrators.

The riots were prompted by reports of police arresting 43 Papuan students on Saturday after tear gas was fired in Surabaya, the country's second largest city, during a demonstration coinciding with Independence Day. from the country.

According to Papuan activists and local media, the riot police have turned into a dormitory to dislodge students accused of destroying an Indonesian flag. The police claimed to have briefly arrested the students, interrogated them and released them.

Images broadcast by the television showed demonstrations organized against these students during which racial insults were pronounced against the Papuans.

As one of the poorest provinces in Indonesia, Papua has been the scene of violent events since last year. In December, at least 16 Indonesian workers working for a public company on an infrastructure project were killed by separatist rebels.

Last month, two soldiers were killed in Papua during clashes with separatists.

The Indonesian military has been accused by NGOs of human rights violations against the Melanesian population, including killing peaceful protesters.

Papua declared itself independent in 1961, but Indonesia took control by force in 1963 of this region rich in natural resources. She officially annexed Papua in 1969.

Many Papuans claim independence, like Papua New Guinea, another half of this big island that got it in 1975 after being an Australian colony.

© 2019 AFP