Subject: Refugees destroy local teak-forest in W. Timor

Indonesian Observer April 27, 2001

Refugees destroy local teak-forest in W. Timor

JAKARTA - East Timor refugees put in base camps around Belu, in West Timor, have destroyed a man-made teakwood forest in West Timor, in an effort to earn some quick money, and have even threatened to kill the land owners (Indonesian people in West Timor) if they attempted to cultivate any plants in their own land.

"We have met legislative members in Belu, and called on them to help drive those refugees back to their home land in East Timor, because many of them have taken over our land and converted the teakwood forest into rice- paddies," said Yosef Leto Soro, one of the locals, that became a victim of the refugees.

Antara reported from Belu yesterday that thousands of teakwood trees had been cut down in a frenzy lumbering job done by East Timor refugees, as they were lacking of money and did not now how to apply for jobs.

Locals in Belu have warned legislative members that if the government does not take care of this problem, there will be a serious clash between Belu locals and East Timor refugees. "The bloodshed is only a matter of time," said Leto Soro. Teakwood is one of the worthwhile properties handed-down from generation to generation, for which the families can yield quick money from lumbering and sales of logs or forest products.

Locals say, they always follow the regulations of the government, not to cut down trees at the mountain slopes, but it is strange that when East Timor refugees do such an evil deed, there are no stern measures either from the Belu Government or from the Central Government.

"Is it true that Indonesian law is just applicable to local people, while East Timor refugees can do no wrong, though they destroy our properties?" asked Leto Soro. Following the protest of people in Belu yesterday, legislative members have promised to report the case to the provincial government in Kupang as well as the central government in Jakarta.

East Timor refugees in many cases have stolen basic commodities from locals or taken over other properties with force because they needed money for living while supplies from the central government are scare.

It is still unclear if they will become Indonesian citizens or will be go back to their home towns in East Timor.

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