Indonesia: September 12, 1999


Indonesia agreed to a UN sponsored peacekeeping force for East Timor. Indonesia would prefer other Asian nations to contribute the troops (this pointedly excludes Australia and the United States.)

September 11; With most of the journalists and UN staff driven off East Timor, there is little accurate news on just what is happening there. The Indonesian army on East Timor, and the militias they support, appear to have over 20,000 armed men, and perhaps as many more. Armed East Timorese guerillas are up in the hills, but in very small numbers (perhaps hundreds.) The army has been ruthless in suppressing any opposition. The Indonesians have proved to be ruthless fighters, and many of the militia troops are actually moonlighting members of the Indonesian army (usually those with family in East Timor.) Foreign troops coming into East Timor without permission is the equivalent of declaring war on Indonesia, a nation of over 200 million people that controls the straits through which much of the world's oil and seaborne trade passes.

The Indonesian army has long been a well paid and obedient member of insiders who ran, and plundered, the entire country. Since the dictator Suharto fell from power in 1998, the army has walked a tight rope between open rebellion, and obedience to the new government. The army does not oppose the new government, but it does not always obey it, either. Many commanders in the army have their own agendas, and the officers on East Timor have undisciplined militias to contend with as well. 

The United States has suspended military relations with Indonesia, but these amount to very little, less than half a million dollars a year. Indonesia cut off most US military aid years ago because of American complaints about what was going on in East Timor. What remained were training courses for Indonesian officers, the main purpose of which, from the US point of view, was to develop contacts within the Indonesian armed forces.

September 10; The UN threatened war crimes trials for senior Indonesian government and military leaders if the violence in East Timor was not dealt with quickly. The only other alternative was allowing an Australian led, UN peacekeeping force into East Timor. Indonesia has refused to allow that, although today, Wiranto, the head of the army, said that they would consider such an option, eventually, maybe.




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