Weapons company Thales under fire for human rights violations in West Papua

December 14, 2022
Activists are calling to Thales to withdraw its weapons from West Papua. Graphic: Green Left

Community members gathered on December 1 to raise the West Papuan flag in the lobby of weapon's company Thales’ office.

The action was held to protest Thales’ weapons' exports to Indonesia and call on it to recall its weapons from West Papua, where Indonesian forces use them to contain the movement for independence.

“Thales Bushmasters have been spotted in West Papua. Our friends over there send us photos of pieces of exploded Thales missiles that they find on the ground,” activist Lilli Barto said.

“This company has blood on its hands. They need to stop arming regimes that violate human rights, no matter how profitable the practice may be.

“They are fuelling genocide and dispossession; they are implicated in the war crimes committed by their customers.”

Less than 1300 kilometres from Darwin, West Papua has been struggling for self-determination since it was a Dutch colony. Formally, it is a region of Indonesia — the result of a United Nations agreement brokered by the United States in the 1960s.

Thales is one of many companies that manufacture weapons in Australia for sale to the Indonesian forces. Others include BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, Electro Optic Systems and Rheinmetall Defence.

Indonesia's security forces have a long record of human rights violations including widespread rape, torture, political assassinations, razing villages, imprisonment of West Papuan leaders, severe curtailment of freedom of expression, and denying access to journalists and human rights observers.

For these reasons Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Asian Human Rights Commission have condemned Indonesia.

Indonesia also considers the raising of the West Papuan morning star flag to be an act of treason.

“We have regular contact with West Papuans in Australia and on the ground in the region, they tell us what is going on there,” said Bartolo. “Logging companies are buying up the forests where people live, then they send the army in to drive people off the land so that it can be logged. Then when the forest is gone, they turn it into palm oil plantations.

“The military protects the property rights of the companies at the expense of the human rights of the people.”

Peace In Papua, that coordinated the protest, has vowed to continue to peacefully disrupt businesses that they say fuel the conflict in West Papua.

They describe their strategic goal as “ending all weapons exports and transfers from Australia to Indonesia, as one part of a broader struggle for disarmament, demilitarisation, and decolonisation across the world”.

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