Subject: AP: ET fires 23 soldiers for indiscipline, more dismissals to follow

East Timor fires 23 soldiers for indiscipline, more dismissals to follow

December 17, 2003 12:57am AP Online

East Timor's tiny military has discharged 27 soldiers and will soon fire more than 60 others for being absent without leave or skipping training, a spokesman said Wednesday.

The country's 1,500-strong East Timor Defense Force is slowly taking over responsibilities from U.N. peacekeepers in the newly independent nation.

On Tuesday, 27 soldiers were fired for being absent without leave for more than 15 days or for skipping training sessions, said Col. Lere Anan Timur. He said another 63 will be dismissed over the same charges in January.

"We don't want to keep indisciplined soldiers in our military force," Maj. Jose Maubuti said at the dismissal ceremony. "It is a strong warning for all our soldiers."

East Timor's army is being trained by international instructors from Australia, Portugal, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States. It has two active and two reserve infantry battalions, as well as a naval unit consisting of two coastal patrol vessels.

U.N. troops arrived in East Timor in September 1999 to restore order after the Indonesian army and its militia proxies went on a rampage in the territory when it voted for independence.

The former Portuguese colony, which Indonesia invaded and occupied in 1975, remained under U.N. rule until May 2002 when it gained full independence. The U.N. force is due to pull out in June 2004.

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