|Subject: USGOV: Travel Warning on ET
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman
East Timor March 7, 2001
American citizens traveling to East Timor should exercise extreme caution.
East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia in an August 30, 1999 referendum and is currently under the authority of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). Violence erupted throughout East Timor after the United Nations-sponsored referendum in that province. Stability has been established throughout the territory since the arrival of international forces.
During the year 2000, East Timor witnessed a significant increase in all categories of crime, violent and non-violent, due in large part to the decimated economy. Approximately half the crime occurs in the capital of Dili. Gangs of unemployed East Timorese often roam the city at night looking for residences to burglarize. Expatriates are being targeted more frequently as they are perceived to be wealthy and easy targets. American citizens are strongly encouraged to exercise caution, particularly at night, and to avoid large crowds or demonstrations.
Travelers should also avoid areas along the border between East and West Timor. Militia incursions have occurred in the western and central districts of East Timor, and travelers wishing to visit these areas may wish to consult UN authorities in Dili before their journey.
Travelers to East Timor should be aware that overnight accommodations outside of Dili are virtually non-existent.
All Americans resident or traveling in East Timor are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta (tel: 62-21-3435-9000), and to obtain updated information on the security situation. Registration may be completed in person, by fax or through the U.S. Embassy home page at http://www.usembassyjakarta.org. Embassy Jakarta currently maintains a temporary representative office in Dili, which can provide limited emergency services to American citizens. The temporary representative office is located in the sea front Farol district of Dili, phone 0407-047052.
This replaces the Public Announcement for East Timor of November 3, 2000 to provide updated information on the security situation, and it expires July 11, 2001.
Department of State travel information and publications are available at Internet address: http://travel.state.gov. U.S. travelers may hear recorded information by calling the Department of State in Washington, D.C. at 202-647-5225 from their touchtone telephone, or receive information by automated telefax by dialing 202-647-3000 from their fax machine.
I'm not in the habit of responding to items on this list, but this recent edict from the U.S. government cannot go unchallenged.
The U.S. State Department warns American citizens travelling to East Timor to "exercise extreme caution" because "During the year 2000, East Timor witnessed a significant increase in all categories of crime, violent and non-violent,... "
I'm confused about when the significant increase in crime is relative to.
Is it September, 1999, when Indonesian-backed troops and militias killed approximately 2,000 people, burned and destroyed 75% of the buildings in East Timor, and forced 3/4 of the population to free into the mountains or West Timor? (Perhaps the State Department wasn't aware of this, since they did nothing about it for several weeks.)
Is it the pre-ballot period in 1999, when (according to Bishop Belo) at least 5,000 people were killed and widespread terrorism and dislocation was created by Indonesian troops and militias in an attempt to prevent the referendum and deter people from voting for independence? (Or perhaps these aren't crimes, as the international community gave full endorsement to the May 5 agreement which left Indonesian military forces in charge of security in East Timor?)
Or perhaps it's the period from 1975 through 1999, when Indonesian military forces illegally invaded and occupied the neighboring territory of East Timor, causing the deaths of one-third of the East Timorese people, 200,000? Corruption, rape, expropriation, torture and murder were everyday occurrences. (The U.S. government clearly didn't consider these to be crimes, as Washington continued to train and arm the Indonesian military throughout that period.)
I spent six weeks in East Timor in December and January, and plan to move there later this year. Although there are many problems with the UNTAET administration, violence against foreign nationals -- U.S. citizens included -- are not among them. I was safer in Dili than I am in my home city (New York) and in far less danger than during any visit to East Timor in 1999 or earlier.
East Timor has been politically independent from Indonesia for more than a year. It's unfortunate that the U.S. government continues to use its Jakarta Embassy as a touchpoint for U.S. citizens in East Timor.
There is a need for action in response to violent crimes committed in East Timor, naming and convicting the perpetrators to prevent them from continuing their pattern of criminal behavior. Unfortunately, most of those responsible reside in Indonesia with impunity, often retaining high military positions. The U.S. State Department and the international community, should support an international tribunal to bring them to justice.
- Charles Scheiner, ETAN
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