Subject: ABC: UN fails to secure border

ETIMOR: UN fails to secure border 25/04/2003 10:21:41 | Asia Pacific Programs

Listen: http://www.abc.net.au/ra/asiapac/programs/m587245.asx

In East Timor, continuing militia infilitration has put a spotlight on the United Nations failure to properly secure the border. Local police say militia groups have returned to East Timor, through numerous tracks along the West Timor border. The warning comes as the U-N forces prepare to withdraw, leaving border security to the local police.

Transcript:

KEADY: Batugade is one of the border towns that separate West and East Timor, and it is here where legal and illegal border markets now operate, allowing people from both territories to buy goods.

MARKET MAN: They say that we help them how to survive.

KEADY: How to survive economically?

MARKET MAN: Yes.

KEADY: But they are another complication in attempts to patrol this long border, where it is alleged militia have been crossing for months.

MARKET MAN: Now I've seen them, militia come … several days ago they caught some militia around but then they left the market.

KEADY: So militia have been known, have been caught and found at the legal market that operates?

MARKET MAN: Yes.

KEADY: Local border police units admit that the latest intelligence has militia coming through 36 different tracks along the border.

POLICE COMMANDER BOBONARO: According to information he got that the figures is more than 500 already returned to East Timor.

KEADY: These East Timorese border police will gradually take over security of the border from the UN PKF forces, which are slowly pulling out as the UN gets ready to withdraw next year.

While locals are happy that police will now be involved, many say it is just too late, with militia already having made the journey across, while the PKF was in charge.

KEADY: This man says that locals told PKF about militia with guns in the area just days before the Atsabe attacks in January. But they did not listen, and always patrol for just a few hours he says. They cannot identify militia, and release them when they catch them.

The local chief in the area Sergio Soares Pereira agrees, and says he has complained to both government and the PKF about inadequate security with no response.

SERGIO SOARES PEREIRA: He says at the beginning he saw maybe more than ten people captured by PKF and then released again.

KEADY: People who he thinks are militia?

SERGIO SOARES PEREIRA: Militia.

KEADY: Justin Kelly is deputy force commander with the UN's PKF. He says the 240 kilometre border is hard to monitor, but the criticisms are valid.

KELLY: I think until the Atsabe attacks we were of the opinion that we had a pretty good grip on the comings and goings that we did, but probably we were overly focussed on the junction points and the activities in and around the junction points. Because it's probably been a year or more, nearly two years since the previous militia incursion we had started to focus our business elsewhere and we really were looking in a different direction.

KEADY: The PKF says it is now stepping up operations, and acknowledges that the threat is most likely an external one, emanating from West Timor.

KELLY: At this stage there could be up to three-thousand ex-militia members still living in NTT, there is not sufficient employment so it's quite possible that groups of them are simply saying well we've had enough, we'll go and see what living's like in the east. Equally, it's possible that there are some former militia leaders who are important and powerful figures in their own right who could have a political agenda to push, who may be encouraging these groups to return to destabilise the government of Timor Leste and create a political balance which is favourable to them.

KEADY: Following attacks in January and February, authorities arrested people who claimed there were 30 groups attempting to cross the border between East and West Timor.

Whether the predictions of more militia attacks are accurate and whether it is enough to prevent any further destabilisation, remains to be seen.

Transcripts from programs "AM", "The World Today", "PM", the "7:30 Report" and "Lateline" are created by an independent transcription service. The ABC does not warrant the accuracy of the transcripts. ABC Online users are advised to listen to the audio provided on this page to verify the accuracy of the transcripts.

25/04/2003 10:21:41 | Asia Pacific Programs

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