Subject: JP: Unarmed Indonesian troops escort E. Timorese returnees to border

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

The Jakarta Post [online] August 9, 2002

Unarmed Indonesian troops escort East Timorese returnees to border

JAKARTA (JP) - Indonesian Military (TNI) troops, tasked to escort East Timorese refugees returning to their homeland to the border, are not carrying weapons, a military officer said on Friday.

"This move was made to show that the East Timorese refugees are participating in the repatriation program without pressure from any party," the chief of the Indonesian task force guarding the border between the province of East Nusa Tenggara and East Timor, Lt. Col. Djoko Subandrio, told Antara.

Djoko said escorting the refugees from their camps to the border is the responsibility of the task force.

He said this had always been politicized by certain parties to create the impression that the (TNI) is forcing refugees to get into the trucks that will take them home. The truth is, the task force is doing this based on goodwill, he added.

The duties of the task force are to guard against infiltration and the smuggling of goods to and from Indonesia, he said.

East Timor, an Indonesian province for 23 years, separated from the republic in 1999 through a United Nations-organized ballot.

It gained full independence last May 20, after the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) governed it for more than three years.

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