Indonesia: Endless Unrest in East Timor

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June 8, 2006: Australia is sending more police to join the army peacekeepers in East Timor. Australia, based on earlier experience in New Guinea and the Solomons, expects that its police peacekeepers will be required in East Timor for years, not just to keep the peace, but to rebuild the security forces (police and army). This assumes that the East Timorese can sort out their political problems. This is not a sure thing, as other unstable countries in the region have lurched from crises to crises, with no help from inept and corrupt government officials, for decades.

Violence is still occurring in, and around, the capital, as partisan gangs continue to loot and burn. While there has been a lot of violence, the death toll is only about two dozen, with over a hundred injured. East Timorese politicians continue to blame each other for the unrest, and have been unable to get their supporters off the streets.

June 6, 2006: The UN blames the current unrest in East Timor on its decision to withdraw peacekeepers "too early" in 2002. But compared to similar nations in the region, paying millions a year to maintain a force of foreign troops in East Timor would have delayed the eventual breakdown in order, not eliminated it. The East Timorese wanted independence, although they liked having peacekeepers around, as that provided lots of jobs for the locals. But the East Timorese were not keen on having foreigners telling them what to do. The problem is that too many East Timorese don't like other East Timorese telling them what to do either.

June 3, 2006: Relief organizations were able to muster aid for the East Timor refugees, despite the needs of nearly 700,000 homeless Indonesian earthquake victims thousands of kilometers to the west. The May 27 quakes killed over 6,000, and injured many more. The East Timor relief operation is further complicated by the presence of armed gangs, who are also going to want some of the food aid, as food stores in the capital have been cleaned out by the looters.

June 2, 2006: Major Alfredo Reinado, the leader of the 600 fired soldiers, whose cause triggered the current unrest in East Timor, has had several hundred of his troops build trenches in the hills south of the capital. Reinado says he won't surrender to anyone until the hated prime minister, who ordered his troops dismissed, leaves office. The prime minister, who has long been unpopular, refuses to leave. When Reinado's troops left the army, they took their weapons with them. Reinado's troops have stayed out of the current unrest, and have not clashed with the foreign peacekeepers, at least not yet.

June 1, 2006: Over ten percent of East Timors population (of about 980,000) have fled their homes in and around the capital, to escape the gang violence. Some 2,000 foreign peacekeepers have reduced the gang violence, but have been unable to round up all the gang members, who continue to loot, and terrorize the remaining civilians.

 

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