Subject: KY: Asian Ministers call for Timor militia to be reigned in

Ministers call for Timor militia to be reigned in

BANGKOK, July 27 (Kyodo) -- By: Tim Johnson

Foreign ministers from more than 20 Asia-Pacific countries ''deplored'' Thursday the killing Monday of a United Nations peacekeeper in East Timor by suspected anti-independence militia and urged efforts to stamp out further militia activity.

A statement issued by chair country Thailand at the close of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Bangkok also said the ministers ''emphasized the need for further collective action to resolve the (East Timorese) refugee problem, including dealing with the continuing militia activities.''

The slain peacekeeper, 24-year-old New Zealand Pvt. Leonard Manning, was shot dead Monday morning in a clash with suspected militia in a rugged mountainous area near the border with Indonesia's West Timor.

He was first fatal battle casualty since the Feb. 1 deployment of the U.N. peacekeeping force to East Timor.

In recent months, there have been a number of sporadic incidents involving incursions of suspected militiamen across the border from West Timor, including a grenade attack on Australian peacekeepers a month ago that left one peacekeeper wounded.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff told reporters there is ''clear evidence'' incursions are carried out by militia operating out of refugee camps in West Timor, which shelter some 100,000 East Timorese.

''What I'm raising in Bangkok today at the (forum) and I will raise directly with the Indonesian government is the need for the Indonesian government to move decisively to disband, to disarm the militia and to deal with the problem of the refugee camps,'' Goff said.

He called on Jakarta to repatriate refugees wishing to return to East Timor, while urging that refugees not wishing to return, including those associated with the militia or the Indonesian military or police, be resettled outside West Timor

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told reporters Australia will reinforce its 1,500-strong peacekeeping contingent in East Timor, though not because of the death of the New Zealand soldier.

''We have been planning to do this for some weeks now,'' he said, referring to the planned deployment of four Blackhawk helicopters and an extra 100 personnel.

Downer said the helicopters will give the 8,500-member U.N. peacekeeping force, which he said has been short on helicopter capability, ''much greater flexibility.''

''The death of the peacekeeper reminds us all that the peacekeeping operation, particularly in the western part, not so much the central and eastern parts, is a dangerous business. And that peacekeeping force needs to be effective.''

Goff, meanwhile, called it ''good news'' that Indonesian Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab has deplored the shooting and has indicated Jakarta will be deploying further troops on the border to prevent incursions.

But he stressed the need for Jakarta to ''deal resolutely'' with refugee camps under militia control.

Earlier Thursday in Dili, a memorial service was held for the slain peacekeeper, whose body was returned to New Zealand on Wednesday.

Thai Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan said Thailand too is concerned about deterioration of security in East Timor, especially as the current U.N. force commander, Lt. Gen. Boonsrang Niumpradita is a Thai military officer.

''But the overall picture is still very much positive and we have together arrested the deteriorating situation that had developed since last September,'' he said, alluding to the killing, burning and looting spree by Indonesian military-backed militia angered by the Aug. 30 vote for independence.

The ASEAN forum, which tackles security issues in the Asia-Pacific region, comprises the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nation members -- Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar -- plus Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, North and South Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Russia and the United States. 

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