Subject: Indon Troops Take Aid Trucks Meant For Refugees - WFO
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 1999 12:26:07 -0400

Associated Press September 24, 1999

Indonesia Troops Take Aid Trucks Meant For Refugees - WFO

DARWIN, Australia (AP)--Indonesian troops took two trucks loaded with rice enroute to starving refugees hiding in the mountains of East Timor, a World Food Program official said Friday.

It was the first cargo of aid to be sent to Dare, a pro-independence stronghold where up to 37,000 refugees fled to escape marauding militias. International peacekeepers arrived there for the first time Thursday.

WFP spokeswoman Abby Spring said four truckloads left the capital Dili for Dare Thursday and that the Indonesian army took two of the trucks. Three metric tons of rice did make it to the refugees, she said.

"It's still a situation where it's insecure on the ground. That's the biggest obstacle and it will continue to be our biggest obstacle," Spring said.

Thousands of East Timorese fled to the mountains after an explosion of violence following a vote for independence from Indonesia, which has ruled the former Portuguese colony Timor since it invaded the eastern half of the island in 1975.

David Wimhurst, a spokesman for UNAMET, the U.N.-sponsored multinational force in East Timor, said pilots who had flown a reconnaisance flight over the island Thursday reported seeing few people living in the major cities of both East Timor and Indonesian-controlled West Timor.

Wimhurst said villages were mostly burned to the ground and one was still in flames.

He said three military aid flights would be made Friday, dropping a total of 30 tons of food over East Timor.

Air drops of food resumed Wednesday after a three-day hiatus while planes were being used to ferry in peacekeepers from Darwin, Australia.

Indonesian troops deliver final humiliation to East Timorese

DILI, East Timor, Sept 25 (AFP) - The markets of Dili reopened for business Saturday -- manned by Indonesian soldiers selling looted food to hungry East Timorese people at sky-high prices.

Local people who have started drifting back into this devastated city after being driven out in a murderous three-week rampage by Indonesian army-backed militia, had no option but to buy to feed themselves and their starving children.

The soldiers, some in full uniform, and some wearing T-shirts and uniform trousers and boots, were observed by AFP at a market in Lecedire street holding out for maximum prices from the people they have oppressed for 24 years.

The soldiers, most of whom were due to leave within days, sat in groups of four or five, doing busines through a railing fence, with one or two selling and the others standing guard with M-16 rifles at the ready.

The trade was brisk, but when AFP asked to buy, one soldier closed a bag holding packets of what appeared to be sugar and said: "Not for sale."

One of the East Timorese was Roberto Alves, a corporal in the Falintil guerrilla resistance, who said he had been sent down from the refugee enclave at Dare in the mountains south of here to buy food for some of the 30,000 refugees he and his comrades have been trying to protect.

His Falintil cap insignia and T-shirt did not help his negotiations with uniformed Indonesian soldiers and ended with Alves throwing up his arms in protest.

"They wanted 40,000 rupiah (4.50 dollars) for a small pack of rice which they have looted from the shops," he told AFP through an interpreter.

"It's too much for us and not enough rice."

He said he had walked for three hours from Dare to get some food, and appeared to know nothing of United Nations efforts to get food to the refugees there.

Augustine de Jesus said he paid 5,000 rupiah for a 57-gram container of fried noodles that would be shared with his wife and children.

Another man, who would not give his name, left the soldiers clutching a bag of sugar and muttering "pencuri" (thief).

Asked where the soldiers got the sugar, he replied in Indonesian: "They looted it. Where else could they have got it?"

Fernando Perreira, 25, said he had paid 25,000 rupiah for a bottle of shampoo. "I'm not happy," he said. "It's very expensive. They loot the goods, burn the stores and sell the stuff back to us because we have nothing and we can't get it anywhere else."

Rosario dos Santos, a director of the Catholic charity Caritas, said he recognized some of the products the soldiers were selling as food, medical equipment and pharmeceuticals looted from Caritas warehouses.

"It was the TNI (Indonesian military) that looted the warehouses and the TNI which is selling it back to us," he said.

School teacher Ezekiel Perreira, 40, also made the six-hour round trip from Dare to try to buy some food and said he, like everyone elese, had no option but to buy from the soldiers.

"I've got a wife, six children and two brothers and sisters, my house has been burned and all my things taken.

"But I'm lucky to still be alive."

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