Anti-riot troops on stand-by in West Timor for closure of refugee camps
JAKARTA, Dec 31 (AFP) - Anti-riot troops were on stand-by with shoot-on-sight orders in West Timor Monday in anticipation of riots by East Timorese refugees who are being forced out of their camps starting January 1.
East Nusa Tenggara Police chief Brigadier General Yacobus Jacki Uli said police Mobile Brigade troops, regular police and soldiers were being assembled for operation Komodo Restoration in anticipation of rioting, the Jakarta Post reported.
West Timor authorities have set New Year’s Day as the deadline for tens of thousands of refugees to start vacating the squalid camps, where they have been living since September 1999.
Over a quarter of a million refugees were forced or fled into West Timor after the majority of East Timorese voted to break away from Indonesian rule in a United Nations-sponsored plebiscite on August 30, 1999.
The UN’s refugee agency says about 180,000 have returned to their homeland.
The remaining 70,000 or so—no agency has been able to conduct a comprehensive count of the camps’ population—are being forced to choose either to join a resettlement program in Indonesia or return to East Timor.
Uli said the security operation would last three months as the camps are vacated and gradually closed.
The government has been providing the refugees
with 400 grams of rice and 1,500 rupiah (15 cents) per day for each person.
That aid will stop from Tuesday, as their refugee status is withdrawn.
“The camps will gradually be closed as the government’s aid will halt by the end of December, and the police will take stern measures against those who refuse to leave the camps,” provincial spokesman Kosapilawan was quoted as saying.
Uli said officers would be authorised to shoot on sight.
“Those rioting or provoking violence will be shot on sight. This is to prevent social conflicts from spreading in the province,” he said.
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