East Timor: Interdependence and Intervention
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After East Timor vanished from the international agenda in the early 1980s, it did not re-emerge for another decade. FRETILIN’s armed resistance to Indonesia’s occupation gradually waned through the 1980s in the face of brutal counterinsurgency operations, its armed wing reduced to a rump force operating in the eastern mountains. However, by the turn of the decade, a new generation of resisters had emerged in urban areas in response to high unemployment and the iniquities of Indonesian rule. The army’s typically inhumane response — particularly a massacre of pro-independence youths at the church of Santa Cruz in Dili in 1991 — drew international attention back to the territory. In the context of the West’s ‘new interventionism’, Jakarta was pilloried for abusing human rights and came under renewed pressure to settle the conflict peacefully. When the Indonesian state was further weakened by the Asian financial crisis, Jakarta offered the Timorese a referendum on their political future in 1999. When they voted overwhelmingly for independence, the Indonesian army and its allied local militias razed the territory, precipitating a major humanitarian crisis. The UN authorised an International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) to intervene and restore order, then initiated a statebuilding intervention. East Timor regained its independence in 2002.
KeywordsSecurity Council Foreign Minister ASEAN State Asian Crisis Defence Minister
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