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Indonesia's formal annexation of the territory in 1976 was never accepted by the United Nations.
An estimated 100,000 Timorese were killed in war and resultant famine between 1976 and 1980 out of a total pre-invasion population of 650,000. According to an Australian parliament study, a total of some 200,000 East Timorese have died as a direct result of the invasion and occupation.
Armed resistance diminished to a handful of guerrillas, but repressive military rule resulted in widespread resentment against Jakarta. Human rights abuses by the army damaged Indonesia abroad. In 1996 Bishop Carlos Belo of Dili shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Jose Ramos Horta - an independence leader in exile.
A UN supervised ballot on autonomy on 30 August produced a vote in favour of independence from Indonesia. However a violent backlash by pro-Indonesian militias in the wake of the ballot vote had a devastating effect on the territory, with whole towns being set ablaze, unknown numbers beaten and killed and much of the population forced to flee.
The violence prompted concerted action by the international community, with the dispatch of an Australian-led peacekeeping force to restore security. In October Indonesia’s highest legislative body, the People’s Consultative Assembly finally ratified the result of the referendum, effectively paving the way for East Timor to achieve full independence.