Subject: Militia fears lead to ban on military clothing on Indon-E. Timor border

BBC Worldwide Monitoring February 23, 2005 Source: Detikcom web site, Jakarta, in Indonesian 21 Feb 05

Military clothing banned for civilians in West Timor border areas

Text of report by Emmy F, published by Indonesian Detikcom web site on 21February

Kupang: TNI Indonesian Armed Forces has banned civilians from wearing military or militia paraphernalia in the Indonesia-East Timor border region.

The ban was imposed following the discovery recently of a number of civilians who had joined the group Front Pembela Merah Putih Red and White Defenders Front with former militia leader Eurico Guterres, and who were found to be wearing camouflage clothing and red berets similar to the uniforms of TNI soldiers deployed in the Atambua and border regions.

On 21 February, Commander 161 Military Sub-Area Kupang, Colonel Muswarno Moesanip, stated that his troops would not tolerate civilian organizations, including political parties, wearing camouflage uniforms in the border region. This was in order to avoid claims by the international community that militia were still conducting activities in the area.

One of the main tasks of border security troops is to prevent the West Timor border region from becoming a base for armed groups of civilians to conduct attacks into East Timor, Moesanip said. TNI would also endeavour to secure the border region between the two countries by combating smuggling activities into and out of East Timor, as well as by providing security guarantees to international humanitarian organization staff carrying out their missions in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT).

According to Moesanip, in order to reinforce security in the border region, as of 1 March 2005 organic troops from TNI's 744 Infantry Battalion will be permanently stationed there. Up until now, the strength of border security troops has numbered four battalions, located at 55 posts throughout the border regions of Belu District and North Central Timor.

"With the deployment of organic troops to the frontline, these troops will gradually become responsible for border security," he said.

Meanwhile, the Chief of Belu Police District (Kapolres Belu), Assistant Senior Commissioner Ekotrio Budhiniar, who was contacted separately, acknowledged that members of Front Pembela Merah Putih had been wearing paraphernalia akin to TNI uniforms. However, police do not have the authority to impose bans on the general public.

According to Kapolres Belu, 15 previously reported as 11 police security posts will be inaugurated in the near future for the purpose of providing assistance to TNI border security troops overseeing security along the border.

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