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Sunday, September 12, 1999 Published at 17:24 GMT 18:24 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Timor exodus 'run' by Indonesia

Officials say they were told to set up camps before the referendum

By Humphrey Hawksley in Kupang, West Timor

Fresh evidence is emerging of a pre-planned policy by Indonesia to empty East Timor of much of its population.

East Timor
Officials in neighbouring West Timor say they were ordered to set up camps to handle tens of thousands of people - before the referendum took place.

Since Saturday, more than 24,000 have left East Timor and registered with the West Timorese government.

Many more, who believe they are on militia hit-lists because they want independence, have got out or are in hiding.

[ image: Refugees have been flooding out of East Timor]
Refugees have been flooding out of East Timor
The refugee coordination centre in Kupang said it had been told to prepare for a massive influx on 26 August, four days before the independence ballot.

One official said the government was not so much running a refugee crisis as handling a transmigration programme. The official said thousands who had left would never go back and they were being found homes and jobs elsewhere.

(Click here for a map of the area)

In further evidence that the exodus from East Timor is being run by the Indonesian government, officials said specific areas were being targeted for evacuation and people were being advised, as they put it, to pack up and get out.

The latest arrivals are mostly from the west of the territory around Bacau and Lospalos. With them come the militia, who were given control of the camps and are increasingly making a show of force.

Armed militiamen are a common sight on the streets of Kupang, often escorting trucks of refugees through the city.

Foreigners have no access to the camps and hundreds of refugees who back independence are in hiding and trying to escape to Bali.

The Catholic church has been warned not to make any public statement about the people it is looking after.

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