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Papua (Irian Jaya)

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Irian Jaya is Indonesia's "wild east". Much of it was still unexplored by outsiders as recently as the 1930s.

The Dutch began serious exploration in about 1898. After the Indonesians defeated the Dutch in 1949 and 1950, the Dutch insisted on keeping Irian Jaya. They finally gave up the colony in 1963, under a combination of military and diplomatic pressure. In 1969, a UN-sponsored referendum of village elders led to Irian Jaya becoming a province of Indonesia. Since that time, more noticeably since the late 1970s, there have been separatist movements seeking to make Irian Jaya an independent country, particularly the OPM or "Organisasi Papua Merdeka" guerilla group.

Under the Dutch in the 1930s, Irian Jaya or West New Guinea was a place to which many political prisoners were sent. Mohammed Hatta and Sutan Sjahrir, nationalist leader who were later major figures in the independence struggle, were sent to the Boven Digul prison camp in the southeast of the region.

Jayapura is the main city. It was formerly called Hollandia by the Dutch. Allied (American and Australian) forces passed through here in 1944 on the way to the reconquest of the Philippines.

Irian Jaya province was officially renamed Papua on December 31, 1999.

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