Out of the Ashes: Destruction and Reconstruction of East Timor
In August 1999, after almost 25 years of oppressive Indonesian rule, the people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly to reject an offer of autonomy and opted instead for independence from the Indonesian Republic. In the following days, pro-integrationist militia, backed by the Indonesian military, made good their threats of retribution against a vote for independence, embarking on a systematic program of killing, abduction, looting and burning. Forced by circumstances, a reluctant President Habibie eventually agreed to the presence of a UN-sponsored peacekeeping force. Even as peace was being restored, however, the scale of destruction, continuing threats from militias now based across the border in West Timor, and the existence of thousands of refugees forcibly removed to West Timor and now being targetted for resettlement further afield, cast shadows over the future of an independent East Timor.
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