Subject: AFP: Timor bishop complains of rise in prostitution

Also: Bishop warns on threat of Aids

Timor bishop complains of rise in prostitution

DILI, May 17 (AFP) - East Timor Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo complained of the rise in foreign prostitutes in the staunchly Catholic territory, which becomes independent at midnight Sunday (1500 GMT Sunday). 

In a rare press conference, the Nobel peace prize-winner said that when he boarded a recent flight to Dili from the Indonesian resort island of Bali, he found the aircraft "filled with 15 or 18-year-old young ladies" coming from Thailand. "I ask, 'Who imported them?'" Belo said, suggesting that prostitutes have been serving the thousands of United Nations peacekeepers, police and civilian staff who since late 1999 have been preparing the territory for independence.

"We know that there are houses of prostitution operating in Dili," said Belo, who co-won his Nobel prize for his work during the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. 

The foreign presence has been dramatically reduced as independence approaches but large numbers of overseas police and military personnel will remain in the new nation, which is also hoping to woo foreign tourists. Prostitutes are believed to have operated quietly in Dili for some time. 

One local business is now openly advertising "traditional Thai massage service" and "full body oil massage." 

Belo said he understands East Timor cannot shut itself off from the outside world. "We only ask, please take into consideration the local culture, local values. If you have positive culture from abroad, OK," he said. 

During Indonesia's 24-year military occupation of East Timor, the Catholic church was the only independent voice speaking out on behalf of the oppressed. Now, in a free East Timor, Belo acknowledged that the church has become one of many voices. "So we are among them and we will continue our work, mainly to be a moral voice: how to avoid corruption, how to appeal to the Timorese to work harder, how to maintain peace and tranquility in the country," he said.

 it/sm/cas

South China Morning Post
May 18, 2002

Bishop warns on threat of Aids 
CHRIS McCALL

East Timor's spiritual leader yesterday accused foreigners of bringing prostitutes to his country and encouraging the spread of Aids.

Bishop Carlos Belo said on one flight he had taken recently from Bali, the plane was "full" of teenage prostitutes from Thailand.

"It depends on the international community. Who needs the prostitution women?" he said. "I do not think they are East Timorese. It is not the Church that imported the prostitution. We know that there are houses of prostitutes in Dili. We know there have been signals of Aids."

There have been fears ever since the United Nations took over the administration of East Timor in 1999 that its tenure of the country might trigger an Aids crisis, especially given the nation's abject poverty and lack of employment.

The UN workers in East Timor include some from African countries where the disease is common and the use of prostitutes widespread.

In his last formal press briefing ahead of tomorrow's and Monday's independence celebrations, the head of the Catholic Church in East Timor also stressed that the Church would continue to play a major role after independence.

He said it was also church leaders, such as Dominican friars and other missionaries, who had defended the East Timorese. At times during the Indonesian occupation, he said, the Church was the only institution to take up their cause. "The unity of East Timor mainly depended on the Church in the past," he said.

Tomorrow night a message from Pope John Paul will be read at the celebrations.


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