Conflict & Justice

UN to East Timor: it's time to defend yourselves


A U.N. peacekeeper aboard an armored vehicle secures an East Timor court in 2009.



Can East Timor's security forces maintain order on their own?

United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, believes that they can, according to the Associated Press.

Relative stability is a fairly new phenomenon in East Timor (officially titled the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste), a young nation with a bloody history of occupation and internal strife.

Before the tropical nation gained independence from Indonesia in 1999, it suffered a 25-year occupation that, according to the UN, that left 100,000 Timorese dead and led to violence displacing a fourth of the population.

For a graphic, on-the-ground look at the days preceding East Timor's independence, I recommend this frightening account from veteran journalist CM Rien Kuntari.

Ki-Moon's assertion is a major vote of confidence for a nation that, just six years ago, saw its government collapse under what the AP describes as "extreme poverty, gang violence and disputes between the military and police."

East Timor is rich in oil and maintaining calm after a tense round of elections. The departure of blue-helmeted UN soldiers could go a long way in proving Asia's youngest nation can keep the peace on its own.