Subject: IO: Timor militias force 35,000 to flee
Date: Sat, 22 May 1999 10:13:18 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

Indonesian Observer 18th May 1999

‘Timor militias force 35,000 to flee’

JAKARTA (IO) — At least 35,000 East Timorese, 98% of them women and children, have been forced by anti-independence militias to flee their homes and live in refugee camps in their bloodied territory, a human rights group said yesterday.

The National Commission of Anti-Violence Against Women, which visited East Timor from May 1-9, said the camps are being tightly guarded by Indonesian troops and pro-integration militias.

Only monks and nuns have been allowed to visit the refugee camps, said Ita F. Nadia, head of the group, in a meeting with the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) in Jakarta.

He said others must obtain permits from the provincial police chief before making a visit to the stringently guarded camps, he said.

"Refugees or human rights activists are banned from entering the camps. Between 10 and 15 armed militias are on guard every 50 meters on streets leading to the places," added Nadia, who was accompanied by Komala Candra Kirana, the group’s secretary general.

During the meeting, the group’s members, who disclosed the results of their recent visit to East Timor, were received by Komnas HAM Secretary General Clementino Dos Reis Amaral.

Nadia said refugees living at the camps were ordered to participate in military-like exercises every day, adding that they were obliged to wake up early morning for a flag-hoisting ceremony and line-up.

The conditions at the camps, mostly located at military complexes, are alarming, with inadequate sanitation and a shortage of food and medical treatment, she said.

During its fact-finding mission, the human rights group visited several villages, including Datulete, Kailaku, Selawa, Apabae, Same and Alas.

Amaral said Komnas HAM will check the findings with data obtained by the commission’s branch office in the troubled territory.

In a related development, more East Timorese women and children have reportedly fled to the hills from the provincial capital of Dili after pro-Jakarta militias attacked their neighborhood, torching houses and firing guns.

"About 40 pro-integration militiamen attacked Metiaut district on Sunday night and opened fire. They set fire to 11 houses and damaged seven others, but there are no reports of injuries," one resident told Reuters from Dili.

"Women and children have fled to the hills, but men are still guarding the neighborhood," one resident was quoted as saying. About 50 families live in Metiaut.

Residents said a smaller attack also took place in Bidau district in the capital of 120,000 people on Sunday. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

Sunday’s attacks were the latest by pro-Indonesia militiamen against civilians as tensions rise in the former Portuguese colony ahead of a United Nations-organized vote on increased autonomy due on August 8.

Violence has escalated in the territory of 800,000 people since January, when Indonesia suddenly reversed 23 years of opposition and said it may consider independence if East Timorese rejected its offer of wide-ranging autonomy.

In another development, dozens of pro-independence supporters killed at least three troops in an attack on Saturday at the village of Silili, a pro-Jakarta group said yesterday.

The three were among six soldiers from the Bobonaro district military command, who were blocked by a group of anti-integration supporters on their way home from the village of Lolotoe to neighboring Suai.

Another soldier was seriously wounded during the attack, said the Forum for Unity, Democracy and Justice (FPDK) in a statement obtained by the Observer.

The attackers also confiscated two guns from the ill-fated troops, it said.

The forum condemned the pro-independence Falintil group over the killings of security forces, saying the attack contravened a peace deal signed by rival groups on April 21.

In Dili, the United Nations yesterday accused anti-independence militiamen of killing at least five villagers in their homes and hunting down more in a nearby forest as part of a campaign of violence to derail the vote on East Timor’s future.

David Wimhurst, spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), issued a statement saying 60 militiamen carried out a "brutal attack" on Sunday at Atara village, about 100 kilometers south of Dili, AP reported.

He said UNAMET is demanding that the Indonesian government make good on a promise to restore order and control the militia groups in the former Portuguese colony so the ballot can proceed.

Wimhurst said militiamen fatally shot five people in their homes as they prepared for an early-morning church service.

"Young people living in the village ... fled from the attackers and into the bush," he said. "They were pursued by the gunmen who continued firing, killing an unknown number of them," he said.

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