Indonesia: June 8, 2001


A poll of the 100,000 East Timor refugees still in West Timor camps indicates that some 95 percent of them don't want to return to East Timor. There are several reasons for this reluctance to return to East Timor. Many of the refugees are family members of the anti-independence militia and fear retaliation if they return. Same with the militia members themselves. There are also some non-militia families who do not believe that peace has really come to East Timor. Then there are economic issues. For many, life is better in the refugee camps than in wrecked villages in East Timor. Foreign aid and UN run schools and clinics are worth sticking around for. But there is also the anti-independence militias, who are said to intimidate the refugees to stay in the camps (and enable the militias to sustain themselves by stealing foreign aid.) There is some of that, what is unclear is how large a role the militia actually plays. It's quite common for bandits to arise in refugee camps and live off all the goodies being distributed.


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