Subject: SMH: Jakarta 'losing will to disarm'

Sydney Morning Herald October 14, 2000

Jakarta 'losing will to disarm'

Dili: The United Nations refugee agency says Indonesian Government efforts to disarm militias controlling refugee camps in West Timor appear to have halted.

What appeared a week ago to be a gathering flood of East Timorese returning from camps across the border has dried to a trickle - only eight people on Thursday and none by midday yesterday.

More than 120,000 people were deported across the border by pro-Indonesian militias after East Timor's vote for independence in August last year.

Since last month's militia attack on the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the West Timor border town of Atambua, when three UNHCR staff were murdered, Indonesian militiary and police units have conducted a highly publicised crackdown on the militias.

But UNHCR spokesman Mr Conrad Kessler said yesterday "it appears the Indonesian Government efforts to disarm and disband the militias have seemingly ground to a halt".

It was inconceivable that there were not tens of thousands wanting to return, he said. "No returns on some days and a handful on others are indicators that the militia remain in firm control in many areas."

One refugee told the UNHCR she was forced to pay more than 200,000 rupiah ($A45) - a huge sum for near destitute refugees - in bribes and transport charges to go from Kupang to the border.

- Hamish McDonald


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