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Human bones stolen from remote Indonesian caves by alleged antique hunters

Video Credit: Newsflare
Published on May 16, 2020 - Duration: 11:29s

Human bones stolen from remote Indonesian caves by alleged antique hunters

Locals from a remote area of Indonesia say the human remains of their ancestors, as well as those of Japanese and Dutch soldiers killed in WWII, have been stolen by antique hunters from the caves where they have been resting in peace for decades.

Residents of Beo Village in Raja Ampat Regency of West Papua Province have long known the caves nearby are full of the bones of foreign soldiers, casualties of the turbulent period in their history when the Japanese Empire occupied the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, from March 1942 until after the end of the war in September 1945.

Soldiers from both sides, they say, used the caves as hideouts during the conflict.

"In the past, we found a lot of bones," says community elder Bahri Wawiyai, crouching in one of the caves after inspecting a human skull.

"These are bones of Japanese and Dutch soldiers, they used to hide in a number of caves around here...the bones here were very many, tens to even hundreds," he adds.

"There were also bones of our ancestors but they also disappeared, stolen by robbers," he says, unable to suppress a note of anger in his voice.

According to locals, the caves were also once full of bullets, weapons, military uniforms and the ancient tools used by their ancestors but all that has been taken too.

They suspect the items have been trafficked to the City of Sorong and possibly even abroad.

Local are furious because they organise small-scale historical tours of the area in which the caves and the bones featured prominently.

Beo Village leader Abidin Syukur says he has formed a youth organisation to guard sites of local interest and he's calling on local government departments to crack down on the thieves.

The police say they are investigating the thefts of "war relics" from the caves and are coordinating with local government to "take security measures at a number of historical tourism sites." This remote area of Indonesia, known mainly for world-class diving and snorkelling, has recently been exploring the possibility of historical tourism but to have any chance of unlocking that potential, they will need to keep a better hold of their cultural and historical heritage.

And these are bones of Japanese and Dutch soldiers, they used to hide in a number of caves around here because they were attacked by allied troops, the bones here are very many, tens to even hundreds.

There are also bones of our ancestors that we collected from a number of caves around here, but the bones of our ancestors also disappeared brought by robbers, "Bahri said.

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