Subject: Kostrad warns militias in West Timor

Indonesian Observer Monday, August 21, 2000

Kostrad warns militias in West Timor

JAKARTA (IO) The Army’s Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) has threatened to get tough on a pro-Jakarta militia gang that has been holding up and stealing from vehicles in West Timor near the border area.

Members of the East Timor Fighters (PPTT), who are based in refugee camps in West Timor, mainly target trucks delivering goods to be sold at Belu, a town near the border.

The armed thugs operate by setting up barricades that force drivers to stop. Valuable goods are then unloaded and later the militia’s truck will arrive and take the goods to a camp.

Commander of Kostrad Battalion 502, Major Harto Karyawan, on Saturday said the military is getting fed up with pro-Jakarta gangs that violate Indonesian law.

"We have known for a long time that pro-Indonesian East Timorese fighters almost every day raid trucks carrying goods to the border between East Timor and Indonesia. They set up a lot of blockades and barricades on the roads, especially at Salore and Haliwen," he was quoted as saying by Antara.

He said that as of yesterday, the barricades must be removed, and if any of the militias continue to break the law, they will be arrested and jailed.

In recent days, the thugs have not only raided trucks, but any vehicles driving near the border, taking away any valuable goods.

"After the deadline, the military will take stern measures against them, because their raids and road barricades have caused a lot of trouble for people in West Timor. We will shoot them on the spot if they continue to commit such a crime," said Harto.

He said that from a psychological point of view, he could understand that pro-Indonesian East Timorese fighters are sad because they can’t go back to their hometowns.

"But that doesn’t mean their sadness or anger can be transformed into organized crime in Indonesia."

Police in the West Timor town of Atambua said the militia members could be employed as civilian guards to crack down on sandalwood theft in the region. But locals in Belu and Atambua fear that if the militias become official security personnel, they will abuse their power to extort money from them.

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