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



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Saturday, September 11, 1999 Published at 22:06 GMT 23:06 UK


World: Asia-Pacific

Dili: Back to year zero

The sight that met the UN team as they flew into Dili

By the BBC's Matt Frei in Dili

A United Nations Security Council delegation visited East Timor on Saturday, where they reported evidence of mass atrocities, looting and wanton destruction.

The East Timorese capital, Dili, has been burned, looted and ransacked back to year zero.

East Timor
There was no sign of normal life. The streets were almost completely deserted but for some stray pigs and dogs.

Entire neighbourhoods have been reduced to ashes. Whole rows of houses burned down.

Jeremy Greenstock, the British ambassador at the United Nations, who is part of the mission, was profoundly shocked by what he saw.


Matt Frei views the devastation in Dili
"My personal reaction is one of even greater horror than I thought I was going to find," he said.

"There are people up in the hills there, there are people of course who have been killed and wounded, they're without food in the hills in the back of East Timor."

"The Indonesian Government is doing nothing about that, they're not yet allowing humanitarian organisations to come in."

There is no food anywhere in the city.


[ image: Everywhere, soldiers and piles of belongings]
Everywhere, soldiers and piles of belongings
Starvation is once again a big fear, especially for those thousands of pro-independence supporters who have had to take to the hills.

The pavements are strewn with loot, piles of boxes, refrigerators, television sets, sofas, thousands of plastic chairs, even a grand piano.

The only civilians we saw or were allowed to see by the Indonesian army were pro-Indonesian supporters.

Many of them were militiamen and their families from nearby towns and villages.

They had turned the police station, where the votes of the historic referendum were counted only a week ago, into a squalid refugee camp.


[ image: Much of Dili has been razed to the ground]
Much of Dili has been razed to the ground
But perhaps the most moving scenes were in the besieged UN compound where 80 tired and pale UN staff are clinging on to a mission that has been reduced to one aim alone; to protect the thousand or so East Timorese refugees who have taken shelter there under terrible conditions.

The UN staff will not leave unless the refugees can travel with them.

I saw a mother of seven who broke down in tears.

She had lost her husband and her newborn baby in the woods.

Their house had been burned down and she was pleading with the UN staff not to leave.


[ image: Most buildings were set ablaze in the violence]
Most buildings were set ablaze in the violence
Another woman clung on to a UN delegate when the mission prepared to return to the airport.

"We are all waiting to die," she told us, pointing to the hills above the compound where the soldiers and militiamen sat like crows against the late afternoon sky, their guns ready but silent.

Amid all this drama, fear and dwindling hope, the Indonesian chief of staff, General Wiranto, also on a visit to Dili, made a surprise announcement.

We will consider the option of UN peacekeepers, he told us, in a reversal of yesterday's policy.


[ image: Will violence resume after the visit?]
Will violence resume after the visit?
He did not specify when or how or under what conditions, but General Wiranto himself was clearly shocked by the destruction that he saw today.

At one stage he even tacitly admitted that his soldiers may have acted incorrectly.

However, if it is a new policy it cannot change the overriding fact that in just seven days Dili has been wasted.

Over 120,000 people have become refugees and, according to the army's own statistics, only 27 militiamen have been arrested by a total of 15,000 Indonesian soldiers.

As we left driving past the evidence of this orgy of violence the soldiers laughed and grinned.

The militiamen, some of them still armed, glared at us from the street.

The violence had been switched off during our visit but tomorrow promises to be another day of terror.



Advanced options | Search tips




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




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



Relevant Stories

11 Sep 99 | UK Politics
UK imposes Indonesian arms ban

10 Sep 99 | The Economy
IMF suspends talks with Indonesia

10 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
Picture gallery: Jakarta torn by protests

09 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Is President Habibie in control?

10 Sep 99 | World
Timor bishop blames generals

09 Sep 99 | Americas
US military cuts Indonesian ties

09 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: UN's tattered credibility

08 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: The West's reluctance to act

07 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
Profile: General Wiranto





Internet Links


Government of Indonesia

Unamet

East Timor Action Network

The BBC's Indonesian Service


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