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Friday, September 10, 1999 Published at 12:33 GMT 13:33 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

East Timorese forced into camps

The Indonesian authorities are being accused of ethnic cleansing

Refugees from East Timor have been arriving in West Timor, in what many of them have described as forced evacuations.

East Timor
According to East Timorese leader and Nobel peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, tens of thousands of refugees have been expelled from East Timor.

"There are 200,000 East Timorese abducted, forced into West Timor in tents without medical care, without water without food. They must be saved," he said.

Some of those in the camps said they had been brought there at gunpoint by ship and truck. They spoke of seeing their neighbours killed, their bodies dumped and mutilated.

Humphrey Hawkesley reports from East Timor: "Methodical operation to get as many people out of East Timor as possible"
The BBC's Humphrey Hawkesley, who is in West Timor, says the authorities have lists of those who back independence in East Timor and those who do not.

He says the Indonesian government is trying to empty a territory of its people just after they had voted for it to become a new country.

"This is the Indonesian strategy. It is ethnic cleansing," said Mr Ramos-Horta as he arrived in Auckland on Friday, hoping to meet leaders who are gathering for an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

'One meal a day'

Conditions in the camps are reported to be very poor.

The BBC's Ayun Sundari in Atambua, West Timor: "Around 10,00 people arrive every 6 hours"
"They are like Nazi camps," said Adalberto Alves, a Timor resistance spokesman from the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor.

"They [the refugees] cannot leave the concentration camps. They are receiving food, one meal a day only, as food is being saved for the women and children," he added.

Militias have threatened to kill foreign journalists or observers who try to enter East Timor or the refugee camps.

Aid promised

According to UN officials, Indonesia has agreed that a UN emergency relief team can go to West Timor and has also agreed that the International Committee of the Red Cross can return to East Timor.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has promised $3m of humanitarian aid to assist with displaced people in both East and West Timor, to be provided through United Nations agencies.

Jose Ramos-Horta has urged immediate humanitarian aid and called on world leaders to suspend all bilateral military ties with Indonesia as the US has already done.

He says that more than 1,000 people have been killed in East Timor since the territory voted overwhelmingly for independence in a United Nations-backed ballot on 30 August.

The United States has announced that it is ending military co-operation with Indonesia as a way of putting pressure on Jakarta either to halt the wave of violence or to allow an international peacekeeping force to intervene.

And President Clinton has said that issues surrounding East Timor will be "an important part" on the agenda at the Apec talks.

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