Subject: AN: TNI Mulls Reopening Traditional Border Markets


January 11, 2004 8:47pm Antara

Atambua, E Nusa Tenggara, Jan 10 (ANTARA) - The Indonesian Defence Forces (TNI) is mulling the reopening of traditional markets on the Indonesian-East Timor border, a local military official said.

East Nusatenggara Military Commander Col Moeswarno Moesanip said here Saturday the markets were closed down after an incident in which a former East Timorese refugee, Vegas Biliatu, was shot dead last October 19.

"We are considering the possibility of reopening the markets within the framework of a program to empower people living in the border regions economically," Moeswarno said.

He made the statement in response to the local community's wish that the traditional markets be reopened to preclude illegal trading.

Moeswarno said the traditional markets at several locations on the border were closed in October last year by the TNI and police.

"The TNI deemed it necessary to close down the markets to anticipate the possible negative impact of the shooting of Vegas Biliatu," he said.

But he admitted the plan to reactivate the markets had to do with a planned visit to the border area by Indonesian Trade and Industry Minister Rini Soewandi either in late January or early February.

Meanwhile, East Nusatenggara Police Chief Brig Gen Edward Aritonang said the police had no authority to close or open any traditional market on the Indonesia-East Timor border.

"We did not close down the markets. Please ask the TNI whether there had been any special reason for the closure," Aritonang said.

Asked to comment on the shooting of Vegas Biliato, he said the case was being handled by the central government because it was an international issue.

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