Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Wednesday, July 7, 1999 Published at 02:01 GMT 03:01 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Analysis: Security is the key

UN workers are forced to take measures to protect themselves

By regional analyst Kate Liang

The fragile security situation in East Timor and a series of attacks on aid convoys is leading to serious doubts as to whether the proposed referendum on the future of the territory can go ahead.

East Timor
The UN has already delayed the ballot by two weeks, but is now threatening to suspend preparations altogether unless security conditions can be met before the beginning of voter registration in the province in seven-days time.

But whether or not the Indonesians can provide such guarantees is far from obvious.

Under the terms of the New York agreement between the UN, Indonesia and Portugal on East Timor's future, Indonesia must play a neutral role in policing the ballot and protecting UN staff from armed militias opposed to independence from Indonesia.

Indonesia has given repeated assurances that it will protect UN staff, and the army has denied it intends to sabotage the ballot. But in the latest incident on Sunday, one aid worker told the BBC that Indonesian police stood and watched as UN staff were kicked and stoned.

[ image: Pro-independence supporters believe the police support the militias]
Pro-independence supporters believe the police support the militias
The UN is becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of acknowledgement from Jakarta as to the seriousness of the problem. Most pro-independence Timorese believe that Indonesian soldiers on the ground are lending active support to the militias.

What is not clear, however, is if the Indonesian military is choosing not to control the militias, or if they simply can't control them.

Whatever the answer to that question, the fragile situation is putting a growing strain on relations between Indonesia and the UN.

Jakarta doesn't want to get the blame for blocking a resolution on East Timor and is highly embarrassed by the attacks on UN personnel. But the Indonesian security forces alone are responsible for rectifying the security situation.

One option that has been mentioned is for the UN to extend its mandate to include an armed protection force. But the UN says it will only do that at the invitation of Jakarta - an invitation, which is unlikely to be made

For its part, the UN is determined it will not abandon the ballot altogether.

Pro-independence activists have said any delay could play into the hands of the anti-independence forces. But without firm guarantees from the Indonesian Government, there is no certainty that the ballot will go ahead on time.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia

Relevant Stories

06 Jul 99 | Asia-Pacific
Emergency UN mission to Indonesia

05 Jul 99 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesia condemns East Timor attack

02 Jul 99 | Asia-Pacific
Timorese leaders offer to share power

30 Jun 99 | Asia-Pacific
East Timor leader faces death threats

07 May 99 | East Timor
Analysis: East Timor decides its future

24 Jun 99 | Asia-Pacific
UN hopeful over Timor vote

21 Jun 99 | Asia-Pacific
Timor referendum under threat

Internet Links


BBC Indonesian Service

Indonesian Government

East Timor Action Network

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Indonesia rules out Aceh independence

DiCaprio film trial begins

Millennium sect heads for the hills

Uzbekistan voices security concerns

From Business
Chinese imports boost US trade gap

ICRC visits twelve Burmese jails

Falintil guerillas challenge East Timor peackeepers

Malaysian candidates named

North Korea expels US 'spy'

Holbrooke to arrive in Indonesia

China warns US over Falun Gong

Thais hand back Cambodian antiques