|Subject: AFP: Rights activists question if Timor
vote can be fair
Date: Sun, 01 Aug 1999 11:12:28 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
Rights activists question if Timor vote can be fair
BANGKOK, July 26 (AFP) - Leading Asian human rights activists on Monday questioned whether East Timor's upcoming referendum on self-determination could be fair amid serious problems with security and potential fraud.
They said fear of pro-Indonesian militias made the main town, Dili, a virtual "ghost city" after dark, while many East Timorese complained they were having difficulty registering for the ballot due next month.
"The main thing in East Timor now is the issue of security," Sulak Sivaraksa told reporters about his findings after a recent inspection tour of the former Portugese territory.
"It's not safe physically and it's not safe psychologically," the Alternative Nobel laureate and outspoken Thai activist said.
He said the UN mission in East Timor (UNAMET) was "over-confident" and even if the vote met international standards of fairness the possibility for bloodshed in the ensuing months was high.
"We must be more involved to make sure that in the months after the election there will be no bloodhsed," Sulak said.
Forum Asia representative Chalida Tajaroensuk said many East Timorese including resistance leader Xanana Gusmao, had so far been unable to register to vote.
She said many were walking 20 kilometers (12 miles) to the nearest registration booths only to be told to come back the following day because it was too busy.
"Xanana told us he has not registered because he has not received the documents to show that he is an East Timorese," she said.
East Timor is scheduled to hold an historic vote in late August on whether to accept or reject an offer of autonomy under Jakarta.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was due to decide later Monday in New York whether the security conditions would allow the vote to go ahead as planned.
Exiled pro-independence activist Jose Ramos Horta said in Manila on Monday that armed UN peacekeepers may be needed to safeguard the vote on East Timor's future as violence continues.