Subject: Militias attack UN refugee officials inside W. Timor camp
Date: Wed, 8 Sep 1999 06:02:34 EDT

Australian Broadcasting Corp. Tuesday, 8 September 1999


Militias attack refugee officials inside Kupang camp

In West Timor, a pro-Jakarta group attacked staff from the refugee agency, the UNHCR.

Surrounded by local government officials, police and military personnel, the delegation was set upon by angry refugees.

Ginny Stein reports from Kupang.

At least 50,000 refugees are believed to have crossed the border into West Timor, although none are quite sure of the exact number. The main reason: the military and militias' refusal to allow the media or humanitarian agencies access.

Breaking down that barrier West Timor's governor extended an invitation to officials from the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR.

Leading the delegation, Asia-Pacific's Francois Foinneau who flew in from Geneva. At a camp on the outskirts of the capital, they came to talk with some of the 3,500 people who'd sought shelter in a bus terminal. Inside the camp, loyalties are on display. Refugees still clothed in the colours of militia gangs, some still armed with machetes stand guard inside the camp.

Fifteen minutes into the visit, the delegation was attacked. Amidst a hail of stones, they fled to their vehicle only to be pounded once more as they cowered.

The delegation immediately canceled a planned visit to investigate reports that more than 50,000 have now crossed into West Timor to escape the militias' violence.

A spokesman for West Timor's governor last night said he regretted the violence displayed towards the visiting UN delegation. But in an ominous warning, he said tensions in West Timor are running high and no guarantees of safety can be made.

ABC DISPATCH: An eyewitness has told of the lawlessness and terror that has overtaken East Timor.

An Catholic religious Brother has just escaped from Dili across the border into West Timor, taking with him 30 East Timorese.

The Brother, who does not want to be named, has seen burning and looting in Dili, militia's driving around in UNAMET trucks, and convoys of refugees being trucked out of the country.

The Brother, who is now in now safely in West Timor, told Bronwyn Adcock what he saw as he left Dili.

There is evidence of a military and the militia, who are in fact mainly military, looting the shops and then setting them on fire. And on our way out of Dili at the main police centre called the Polda there would have been approximately ten thousand people there. Militia were outside walking in. They're all in together and so it was a terrible sight, a lot of misery there and there was a couple there, a young engaged couple that I saw and know very well who wanted to come with us to Kupang for their safety. But we just couldn't take them.

ADCOCK: That must have been hard.

BROTHER: It was, it was very hard. And on the way out of Dili, there were convoys continually moving towards Kupang. Some of the trucks were just filled with people. Others had a whole lot of possessions and a few people on top and it was quite apparent with some of them having military or militia or both and being escorted and it would have to be you would think a lot of the looted goods from Dili. And also there were convoys of empty trucks coming back the other way and presumably that was to get more.

In Dili, I saw a UNIMET vehicle being driven by two militia dressed with older men, perhaps in their 30's and the window of the front windscreen was all bashed in. The front was dented and they were talking to military there and police and eventually two of those vehicles, two UN vehicles actually lead the convoy for sometime or at least we were following in a convoy that they happened to be in front of.

ADCOCK: The convoy taking refugees out of Timor?

BROTHER: Yes, yes.

ADCOCK: Well, what does that say to you?

BROTHER: Well as I just say this point that when I got to Liquisa the two UNAMET cars had pulled over and there they were talking to military and police and many military. The fact that they were in the UNAMET vehicles said to me about the Indonesian military's view of what the United Nations is all about. I hope it doesn't present the government's view.

ADCOCK: How did you find getting to the border? Was your convoy safe or were you harassed at all?

BROTHER: We had to go through many checkpoints which were pretty frightening. These were manned by militia. They would look into the vehicle. I was lucky that I had a person who could speak the Bahasa with me in the leading vehicles so we got through reasonably well. He is a priest and had his suttan on so I would say that probably helped. But the people were frightened and we got through one checkpoint and one of the young mothers next to me was crying.

ADCOCK: There has been scattered reports of massacres around East Timor. Have you seen anything that would back that up?

BROTHER: It's very hard to verify things but one sad incident that came to me was from an East Timorese member of UNAMET who was on their security staff and the fires that lead to the people rushing to the UNAMET compound on, I think Thursday, witnessed a child actually being cut up. He was chopped up and the parts of his body was actually thrown about.

ADCOCK: This is in Dili?

BROTHER: That's in Dili, outside the UNIMET compound.

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