Subject: East Timor militiamen stage protest against unrest probe

Indonesian Observer July 25, 2000

East Timor militiamen stage protest against unrest probe

JAKARTA - About 3,000 pro-Indonesia East Timorese militiamen staged a noisy protest in the West Timor capital of Kupang yesterday against the interrogation of several of their leaders for alleged human rights abuses.

State investigators have been questioning the men over allegations that they ordered the waves of violence that took place before and after East Timor's people in August 1999 overwhelmingly voted to break free of Indonesian rule.

Hundreds of people were killed and thousands of buildings were destroyed or damaged in the rampage, which ended only after international peacekeepers arrived on the half-island territory to restore order last September.

Many of the militia bandits fled to West Timor (East Nusa Tenggara). East Timor is now under temporary UN administration.

The protesters, calling themselves the Children of the Victims of East Timorese Violence, argued that the interrogation of the militia leaders was unfair.

They said anti-Indonesian fighters were guilty of human rights violations and should also be questioned.

Mario Vieira, a spokesman for the group called on the international community to be balanced over the question of human rights in Timor.

"Otherwise there will be no peace and reconciliation," he said.

Under international pressure to prosecute those responsible for last year's mayhem, Indonesia has set up a 79-member team to investigate human abuses in East Timor.

Separate reports by another Indonesian human rights investigation and by the UN have already implicated the Indonesian Defense Forces in the violence.

The UN regional office in Kupang yesterday sent its local staff home because of the protest. Its office is across the street from the state prosecutor's office where the interrogations were taking place.

ASEAN entry in 2001

East Timor wants to start talks on entry into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations - long silent on Indonesia's now-ended, bloody occupation - as early as next year, an East Timorese leader said yesterday.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta said East Timor would discuss taking observer status in ASEAN as a "possible first step" to becoming a full member, in consultations with member states Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore.

"I hope that as early as next year, still during the UN presence [in East Timor], we can begin dialog to prepare for accession to ASEAN which would happen soon after independence," he told reporters.

Ramos-Horta made the comments at the start of the 33rd annual ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting in Bangkok. East Timor is attending as an unofficial observer.

East Timor is being administered by the United Nations for two or three years until it is ready for full statehood.

More than 100,000 East Timorese are believed to have been killed after the Indonesian military occupied the former Portuguese colony in 1975. The occupation ended only last year, after the UN force took control.

ASEAN, which includes Indonesia, was silent on rights abuses in East Timor. The grouping, a mix of one-party regimes and democracies, avoids commenting on the internal affairs of its 10 members. Other ASEAN states are Brunei, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. - AP

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