Subject: Indon urges E Timor army members to leave W Timor or resign: UN

Agence France Presse April 28, 2000

Indonesia urges E Timor army members to leave W Timor or resign: UN

GENEVA, April 28

The United Nations welcomed on Friday a campaign by Indonesia to get East Timorese members of the Indonesian army in West Timor to resettle in other parts of the country or resign from the military.

Resettlement forms have been distributed by the government in camps in West Timor for an estimated 2,000 East Timorese military men, said Ron Redmond, spokesman for the UN High Commisssioner for Refugees.

They are being asked if they want to leave the West Timor camps and join the government's programme for resettlement, he said. If they choose to stay in West Timor, they must resign from the army.

"This is very welcome news for UNHCR. It comes at a time when the number of returnees from West Timor to East Timor has dropped sharply in recent weeks," Redmond said.

"UNHCR has been urging the Indonesian government to separate East Timorese military people and former militia members in the camps to eliminate the intimidation and to accelerate the return process to East Timor," he added.

"We believe that about 50,000 of the remaining 100,000 refugees remaining in West Timor would return to East Timor if they were free of intimidation," he said.

Redmond said although security and access to the camps had improved, pro-Indonesian elements still had a "pretty tight control" and opposed repatriation through misinformation and intimidation.

Small groups of East Timorese army members have already been demobilised and returned to East Timor, UNHCR said. The distribution of the forms has started at Tuapukan and Noelbaki camps, which are the largest of the West Timor camps hosting the remaining refugees.

More than 160,000 East Timorese have returned home since October.

Some 250,000 refugees fled or were forcibly deported to West Timor during a wave of Indonesian army-backed militia violence which swept East Timor in September after the territory voted for independence from Indonesia.

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