Subject: SCMP: Jakarta Troops 'Train Militias for Invasion'

also: 50,000 refugees still living under the thumb

South China Morning Post Thursday, April 6, 2000


Jakarta troops 'train militias for invasion'

JOANNA JOLLY in Atambua, West Timor

The Indonesian army is training militias in West Timor for an invasion into East Timor next month despite its continued denials, according to a West Timorese church leader and a human rights organisation.

Both sources warned that Indonesian military (TNI) troops were training militias in areas around the refugee camps close to the border with East Timor.

Yosep Lega Laot, co-ordinator of LAP Timoris (the Council for Timorese Advocacy and Research), said the group had found evidence the TNI was planning to arm the militiamen for a possible mass incursion into East Timor.

"There are about 5,000 militiamen who will infiltrate East Timor.

"They plan to go in a month's time, but we don't know the exact date."

LAP Timoris' allegations are backed up by reports from Benjamin Bria, the Vice-Bishop of Atambua.

During regular aid visits to refugee camps, Vice-Bishop Bria said, he had seen TNI soldiers organising training sessions.

"It is no secret here. I have seen TNI training.

"They gather militias together and give them instructions," he said following visits to Betun and camps at Sesekoe and Matabuik near Atambua.

Sources close to the United Nations in West Timor said the allegations supported what the UN had been saying in meetings with President Abdurrahman Wahid and Indonesian officials.

Following 16 militia incursions across the border into East Timor in early March, the UN told the Indonesian Government that it had evidence the TNI was backing militia activities.

"We sent two people to the areas to investigate," said Mr Laot.

"Our investigators saw militias were trained and facilitated by Kostrad [Strategic Army Reserve] troops."

The allegations come despite recent denials by Indonesian area commander Kiki Syahnakri that the military is providing support to former East Timorese militiamen in any way.

The LAP Timoris team visited East Timorese refugee camps around the border town of Atambua for three days at the end of March.

During this visit they saw soldiers in Kostrad uniforms organising military parades of about 30 militiamen. They also reported seeing the Kostrad soldiers teaching the militiamen to use guns.

"Our team saw the guns during the training session. They picked them up to have a look at them and saw they were automatic weapons from the TNI," Mr Laot said.

The team's investigation focused on two sites, one near the refugee camp at Haliwen close to Atambua's airport.

Here the team found that the militiamen were given training by the TNI every Friday behind the local stadium.

The second site was at Halilulik, at the southern end of the border, near to the town of Betun, where they also observed training by TNI.

The team says the TNI is telling the militias it is training them to take back East Timor.

The pro-Indonesian militias fled East Timor last September following the UN-sponsored referendum which resulted in an overwhelming vote for independence.

According to Vice-Bishop Bria, wooden guns are used during training.

But he has also seen modern automatic weapons and home-made guns during the sessions.

South China Morning Post Thursday, April 6, 2000


50,000 refugees still living under the thumb


Throughout the border region of West Timor, tattered red and white Indonesian flags mark the location of refugee camps dominated by former East Timorese militiamen.

From their makeshift shelters of bamboo and blue plastic tarpaulins, the militias still continue to wield influence over the 50,000 refugees still living in this area of Indonesian West Timor.

The refugees look towards their leaders to tell them whether they should return or not - the same men who led the militias in East Timor.

"People are still controlled by the militia leaders," a local aid worker, Vincent, said.

"It is in their culture to follow a leader. Seventy per cent are farmers, they are not very sophisticated people. You can prove that those who return are doing it because someone tells them to."

The refugee camps are hostile to foreigners. On several occasions officials from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) - who organise the return of refugees - have come under attack from men in the camps. During one visit to a camp in February, an IOM doctor was stabbed in the arm.

On a recent visit to Haliwen camp near Atambua, I was told I would be beaten if I stayed.

White faces are not welcome because of the anger still felt by the militias towards the United Nations, which they blame for taking their country away.

Sometimes this anger spills out into the local population and fights start. Large refugee camps mean that militia and their supporters outnumber villagers, who now feel threatened by the camps.

But the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Atambua says that despite not having ready access to the camps, the security situation is improving.

The agency is now concentrating on providing information on the condition of specific villages in East Timor to encourage the leaders of refugee groups to return.

"Not all leaders are militia and we are organising meetings with these people," the UNHCR's head in Atambua, Alias Bin Ahmad, said.

"The level of decision-making is now based on leaders. If these leaders want we can move 300 people in a day. It is a process of reconciliation at village level in East Timor."

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