etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer Response to front page NYTimes story

Sent by Diane Farsetta to the NY Times and the new activist list serve.

To the editor:

Re "Rwanda genocide seen as worsened by UN inaction" (front page, Dec 17, 1999):

"Information received by a United Nations mission that plans are being made to exterminate any group of people requires an immediate and determined response." The quote is from the panel commissioned to study the Rwandan genocide, but it immediately made me think of East Timor. The Indonesian military-backed militias had been threatening, torturing and killing the East Timorese for months before the August referendum in a futile attempt to sway the vote towards integration with Indonesia. East Timorese leaders, local and international NGOs, and Portugal (the former colonial power in East Timor) pointed out the tragic absurdity of allowing the Indonesian military to provide security for the referendum and called for an international force in East Timor before the vote.

No action was taken.

According to the UN, the post-ballot violence destroyed 70% of all buildings and made three-quarters of the East Timorese refugees. Today there remain over 170,000 refugees in camps in Indonesian West Timor, many held against their will by military and militia thugs. The refugees' situation is grim; the Indonesian government's human rights group documented incidents of rape, abduction, and forced militia service in the camps. The number of children dying of malnutrition and disease continues to rise.

I was an UN-accredited election observer in East Timor. I saw first-hand how the UN and the international community failed the Timorese. The UN, US and other powers must act now to pressure Indonesia to stop the horrors of the refugee camps and to help rebuild East Timor. We owe it to them.

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