Subject: Bali: Timorese Exiles In Hiding After Death Threats From Soldiers

The Independent [London] Tuesday, September 28, 1999

TIMORESE EXILES GO INTO HIDING AFTER DEATH THREATS FROM GOVERNMENT TROOPS

EAST TIMORESE refugees in Indonesia, including the resort island of Bali, are being threatened with death by soldiers and militiamen, but plans for a large-scale evacuation are being delayed by the reluctance of foreign governments to accept large numbers of refugees.

In the Balinese capital, Denpaser, hundreds of fugitive East Timorese went into hiding after soldiers and militiamen picketed banks, shops and phone offices, barring refugees and threatening to kill them.

Last week Indonesian soldiers fired into the air near where refugees were staying. Local authorities say the arrivals are infected with malaria and several hotels in Bali have been ordered to report East Timorese guests to the military.

Militia members have been seen carrying lists bearing the names of those associated with the independence movement, including political activists, students, humanitarian workers, nuns and Catholic priests.

Reports by human rights organisations suggest that dozens of people appearing on such lists were murdered in mid-September as they evacuated East Timor by boat, and their bodies dumped in the sea.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the National Council for East Timorese Independence are trying to evacuate as many as 2,000 East Timorese trapped in Indonesia, but the plan is foundering.

Many refugees are reluctant to disclose their names and locations to the humanitarian agencies, fearing the lists will be passed to the Indonesian government. There is also the problem of where the refugees will go after leaving Indonesia.

"We are very worried for the security of East Timorese in Indonesia, especially as they make their way from safe houses to ports and airports," said a spokesman for Amnesty International. "They are refugees and they should have the same rights and protection as refugees anywhere."

Earlier this month Australia received more than a thousand refugees who had taken refuge in the United Nations compound in Dili, but Canberra is said to be reluctant to accept sole responsibility for the exodus. Diplomats want to keep the refugees in the South-East Asian region, to allow their speedy repatriation when the situation in East Timor stabilises, and the Philippines is being discussed as a possible destination.

"Last week there was a lot of momentum," a Western diplomat in Jakarta said yesterday. "But now I sense that the whole thing is losing steam."

Outside East Timor the highest number of refugees is in West Timor, where 200,000 are living in conditions of squalor and fear. But across the Indonesian archipelago there are smaller East Timorese communities, which have become the victims of a systematic campaign of intimidation.

In Lampung, Sumatra, East Timorese students have been told that they will now be treated as foreign students and have been evicted from their accommodation.

In Ujung Pandang, on the island of Sulawesi, 3,600 refugees are living in schools, mosques and churches under the control of the feared Aitarak militia, and students in Yogyakarta, central Java, have fled to Jakarta.

Unconfirmed reports from the capital speak of a training camp for 2,000 East Timorese, many of them press-ganged, who are being trained to return for incursions into East Timor.

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Associated Press September 28, 1999

Aid Groups Work To Evacuate Timorese Across Indonesia

DARWIN, Australia (AP)--U.N. refugee officials and private aid groups are negotiating to evacuate thousands of East Timorese refugees who fear for their safety in temporary havens across Indonesia.

Tens of thousands fled the eastern half of the island in fear of militias after voting for independence from Indonesia on Aug. 30. Some 200,000 refugees are believed to be in camps in West Timor under the control of anti-independence forces.

Australia has agreed to take 2,000 refugees from within Indonesia. Brazil and Portugal, which ruled East Timor until 1975, reportedly have agreed to take an unlimited number of refugees.

Judith Arenas, a spokeswoman for the London-based Amnesty International, said aid agencies and the U.N. High Commission for Refugees are trying to work out which organizations would be responsible for such an evacuation and how it could be carried out.

Aid workers have been trying to overcome a demand by the Indonesian government that it be provided with lists of East Timorese who want to leave, she said. Aid groups fear that those on the list would then be targeted for retaliation.

"It's more perceived threats to individuals rather than something that actually happened yet," said Abdul Meijid Hussein, humanitarian coordinator for the U.N., adding that he believed evacuation was a good idea.

Fears for the refugees' safety on their way out of Indonesia remained the biggest obstacle to the evacuation, Arenas said Monday.


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