Indonesia Flexes Military Muscle in Border Dispute with East
Where Is International Reaction?
Contact: John M. Miller,
For Immediate Release
January 21, 2004 - The East Timor
Action Network (ETAN) today urged the United Nations and United
States to strongly condemn Indonesia's use of military force in a
territorial dispute with East Timor. ETAN called on Indonesia to
negotiate claims through normal diplomatic channels according to
international law. Indonesia recently bombed a small contested
island to establish its claim.
"Unless the U.S., UN and other nations take a
strong stance now, East Timor's border will remain volatile and real
security a distant dream for the long-suffering East Timorese," said
John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. "The world must act to
prevent Indonesia from chipping away at East Timor's sovereignty."
"Indonesia should sit down with East Timor and negotiate conflicting
claims in good faith, rather than unilaterally assert them through
military force," added Miller. "We fear that without strong
international involvement, Indonesia will not do this."
"There remain a large number of land disputes along the border,
particularly involving the enclave of Oecussi. Will the world stand
by when Indonesia asserts those claims militarily?" asked Miller.
"The UN must remain active in pursuing negotiated solutions to any
disagreements. Both nations must be willing to use international
mechanisms such as the World Court if necessary."
The Indonesian military (TNI) plans to permanently deploy troops on
the uninhabited island called Fatu Sinai by East Timor and Pulau
Batek by Indonesia.
Australian newspapers described a UN report on a December 14
Indonesian military exercise in which a "camouflaged helicopter
bearing Indonesian markings fired a missile into the disputed
outcrop…before a warship pounded the tiny uninhabited island with
heavy gunfire." Two hours later an Indonesian fighter jet, believed
to be a U.S.-built F-16, flew just above the island.
"The U.S. government should strongly protest the use of
U.S.-supplied military equipment in this hostile act against East
Timor," said Miller.
The coral island lies five kilometers off the western edge of East
Timor's Oecussi enclave, which is surrounded on three sides by
Indonesian West Timor and is especially vulnerable. Fatu Sinai has
special spiritual significance to people of Oecussi; its bombing is
seen as deeply offensive.
Border negotiations between East Timor, represented by the UN prior
to independence, and Indonesia began in September 2000. East Timor
has called for a demilitarized border and has only placed police
there. However, Indonesia maintains 1500 soldiers along the border.
East Timor's leadership has called for extending the UN security
presence once the current UN peacekeeping mission ends in May. UN
peacekeepers withdrew from Oecussi in October 2003 as part of a
planned draw-down of UN forces.
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. supports sovereignty and
human dignity for the people of East Timor by advocating for
democracy, economic justice and human rights.