Subject: La Croix on West Timor deportees

La Croix issued a 2 page investigation by Dominique Gerbaud on displaced East Timorese in West Timor in its edition of July 10. It is too long for a full translation in English, but the report contains several very precise elements that I haven't seen elsewhere: therefore I decided to translate extracts. I have neglected to translate things tha are well-known of opinion comments, keeping what looks new to me. There is also an interview of Bernard Kerblat, the head of operations of the UNHCR: this interview is interesting but does not bring anything really new, so I also neglected to translate it.

Sorry for the delay in doing this. Any comments are welcome.

Bruno Kahn


7 June figures show that 180,503 persons have been repatriated. But 84,707 East Timorese are still held on the other side of the border by 3,000 militia. The UNHCR has the names of these refugees, and often [it] even [has] their localisation, thanks to movements of young Catholics who, on the other side of the border, do "intelligence" for the UNHCR.

In this way, it has been known that refugees have been dispered in small groups in about 250 camps and villages. They mostly sleep under tents. Some are held in big industrial plantations of palm trees, which belong to mostly retired Indonesian generals, who have kept in touch with the family of former dictator Suharto.

These refugees work without pay. Like slaves. To meet them, very secret agents had to pass three blockades of armed private guards. The UNHCR could help a group of 77 employees from these palm tree plantatons to get out last month. (...) More than 700 former pro-Indonesia militia, some of whom had been forcibly recruited, have come back to their villages. Several dozens have been reintegrated in the new East Timorese police.


Why then do they stay? Because they are held, mostly by increasingly nervous militia, often very violent and armed. These hold the whole Bélun sector, in the south of the island, where nobody has set foot for almost two years. An enquirer who come back from a discrete mission in West Timor has written a damning report. "We have the names of the 84,000 persons still held by pro-Indonesian militia. About 1,200 children have been placed in several schools and Muslim institutions along the coast. We got back 438. About 1,103 stay [sic for the discrepancy], we have their names, we know very well where they are because we have informants. 46 youth were put in a dormitory, a kind of hangar, where they are formed to become militia and "take back East Timor some day", one of them said. There is the case of a 13 year old girl, who has been kidnapped snce May 26 by a militia living in Kupang. What for? One can guess after having heard the testimony of young girls who came back to their villages and said they had been raped daily."


France opposed a liberation by force. We are told, in Dili, that if the UN intervened on Indonesian territory to free the deportees, thousands of Muslim fundamentalists would seize the opportunity of that violation of their territory to immediately demonstrate in the streets of Jakarta and demand President Wahid's resignation. In the eyes of the diplomats, the East Timorese deportees are not worth this. France adds that the Indian Ocean is not in its privileged sphere of intervention.

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