Saturday, September 25, 1999 Published at 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
Rift over Timor peace mission
Arrests like these have enraged the Thai military
By BBC South East Asia correspondent Simon Ingram
The international force for East Timor has yet to reach full strength, but already differences have emerged over how the mission should be handled on the ground.
The rift demonstrates an underlying uneasiness in many Asian capitals with the peace mission.
Asia has faced up to the crisis in East Timor only with the deepest reluctance.
For years the regional grouping, Asean, turned a blind eye to the savage repression meted out by Jakarta in the territory, citing the principle of non-interference in the affairs of a fellow member state.
It was only after President BJ Habibie reluctantly accepted the deployment of an international peacekeeping force that Asian countries overcame their reticence and agreed to participate.
Who wants to go?
Some, like Singapore and the Philippines, deliberately avoided committing combat troops, sending logistical and medical support instead.
Thailand was awarded the deputy command of Interfet precisely to ease regional misgivings but it appears just as keen to avoid causing offence to Jakarta.
A softer approach
On Friday, a Defence Ministry official in Bangkok said he was horrified by television pictures showing Australian troops pointing guns at the heads of suspected pro-Jakarta militiamen.
Interfet's Australian commander, Gen Peter Cosgrove, has played down suggestions of a rif,t but Asian sensitivities have been exposed again by the hostile response to Prime Minister John Howard's claim last week that Australia - flushed with its pivotal role in East Timor - now sees itself as the United States' peacekeeping deputy in Asia.
Malaysia's deputy prime minister retorted that Asian countries knew how to take care of their region better than any outsiders. Thailand described Mr Howard's plan as inappropriate.