Subject: AFP: UN presence yet to be felt outside East Timor capital Dili
Date: Sat, 19 Jun 1999 14:39:12 +0000
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

UN presence yet to be felt outside East Timor capital Dili

LIQUISA, East Timor, June 17 (AFP) - Militias still rule this seaside district where residents have abandoned dozens of burned and broken houses, afraid to return despite a growing UN presence in the East Timor capital Dili just one hour to the east.

Rickety roadside shacks that serve as pro-Indonesia militia posts seem as numerous along the main road here as are the big, white United Nations vehicles that criss-cross Dili's streets.

The United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) is preparing for an August 8 vote on autonomy or independence in this territory that Indonesia invaded in 1975 and annexed a year later.

But already there is talk of a delay because of lack of security in areas such as Liquisa.

"People are going to be afraid to vote," said the chief of a small community near the town of Maubara. He said he has been too afraid to go out of his house since pro-Indonesia Besi Merah Putih (Red White Iron) militia became active in the area five months ago.

"All the population of this area is living in fear," said the man, who said he was too scared to have his name published.

A church source estimated about 2,000 refugees have been forced from hill towns into Maubara, on the coast in Liquisa district.

"I ask them why do you stay here and they say, 'We are afraid of the CNRT from the mountains.'" the source said. "I don't believe it."

CNRT is the National Council of Timorese Resistance, the main pro-independence group.

Ian Martin, the head of UNAMET, set off Thursday with senior Indonesian military officials to examine the situation in Liquisa.

Diplomats and human rights workers have alleged the militias are supported by members of the Indonesian military.

The most recent United Nations Security Council report on East Timor said that "a climate of violence, fear and intimidation pervades much of daily life outside Dili."

It said pro-Indonesia militias have been the primary source of recent violence and continue to operate with the apparent aim of ensuring that people vote for autonomy rather than independence.

"Yes, we've got problems here but we can't talk about them," an old woman said in Maubara.

People have been threatened with death if they do not support autonomy, the village chief said. Every night, the militias ride their motorcycles and intimidate people, he said.

Along the main coastal road through Liquisa, shabbily-dressed men play cards or sleep in the roadside militia shacks that all fly the red and white Indonesian flags.

In some places, the posts are only 500 metres (yards) apart. Some carry signs proclaiming them Swakarsa (volunteer) or Kamling (neighbourhood law and order).

Outside one large post near the town of Liquisa, about 40 men stood in formation beneath one flag pole.

Further along the road, between Liquisa and Maubara, a community has ceased to exist.

Dozens of houses for more than one kilometre (0.6 miles) have been burned or smashed down. In places all that remains is a charred patch of earth. The houses that are left left stand empty.

The Besih Merah Putih militia attacked the area in January and February, the church source said, adding that the residents have not come back.

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