The Role Played by the International Force for East Timor in the East Timorese Efforts to Achieve Independence
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The Role Played by the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) in the East Timorese Efforts to Achieve Independence
East Timor (also called Timor-Leste in Portuguese) is a country in Southeast Asia. It was a Portuguese colony from the 16th century up until Portugal’s decolonisation in 1975. In 1976 Timor-Leste was invaded by Indonesia who sought to expand its territory. This lead to the development of long guerrilla warfare between the East Timorese who wanted their independence and the Indonesian troops who suppressed the East Timorese efforts to independence. This struggle for independence lasted from 1976 until 1999. This led to the deaths of a third of the East Timorese population due to conflict related causes. Following the fall of Indonesian President Suharto, the UN endorsed an agreement between Indonesia and Timor-Leste. Indonesia agreed to, albeit reluctantly, hold a referendum in Timor-Leste for independence or integration into Indonesia. This referendum was held in August 1999 and it was supervised by the UN. The votes in favour of independence were in the majority. However, the referendum was followed by a violent reaction by the pro-integrationist East Timorese population, which were supported by Indonesian elements. The international community was very much appalled by the violence following the referendum and there was a change in the international climate in terms of humanitarian intervention following NATO’s intervention in Kosovo, the UN’s failure to act in Rwanda, and also the inaction of the international community in Bosnia. The change of international climate led to decisive action for Timor-Leste. Under the aegis of Australia, Indonesia reluctantly consented to the international pe...
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