Subject: AFP: Thai general named as new Timor force commander

Agence France Presse July 12, 2000, Wednesday

Thai general named as new Timor force commander BANGKOK, July 12

The United Nations has appointed Thailand's Lieutenant General Boonsrang Niumpradit as the new commander of the UN force in East Timor, the foreign ministry said Wednesday.

Boonsrang is to replace Philippines commander Jaime de Los Santos next week and will hold the post for one year.

Thailand last month submitted the names of two candidates to the United Nations which had asked it to assume control of the 8,561 troops in Timor.

The losing candidate was Major General Songkitti Jaggabatara, who served as deputy commander in the Australian-led multinational force which brought peace to the territory last year.

The International Force in East Timor then handed over to UN peacekeepers known as UNTAET (UN Transitional Administration in East Timor) , made up of troops from 40 members countries, including 921 from Thailand.

The foreign ministry did not say why Boonsrang, who is currently the director of the National Defence College, was chosen over Songkitti.

As UNTAET commander Boonsrang is to promote the development of a self-defence force which will become Timor's armed forces when it gains full independence, the ministry said.

He is also charged with overseeing security for the East Timorese, negotiating between political groups and strengthening ties with Indonesia, from which the East Timorese voted last year to break away.

The referendum unleashed a violent response from pro-Jakarta militias who were backed by elements of the Indonesian army.

Los Santos departs as the Philippines scales down its involvement in East Timor amid concerns it is overstretching its resources due to increased activity by Muslim separatists at home.

Boonsrang, 52, graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with an engineering degree and was awarded a PhD in the same field from the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT).

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