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East Timor is a part of an island near the easternmost tip of Indonesia Until 1975 East Timor was part of Portugals colonial empire Since then however Indonesia has occupied East Timor This military occupation by Indonesia has been the source of ethnic conflict on the island While the Indonesian government asserts that East Timor could not thrive without its help the East Timorese see independence as their only hope for a peaceful future December 7th marks the twentieth anniversary of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor The consequences of the 1975 invasion have been devastating for the local East Timorese population Apart from those killed opposing Indonesian security forces many have died as a result of disease and malnutrition Out of a total pre-invasion population of nearly 650000 estimates of the number who have died over the twenty years of the conflict go as high as 200000 Aside from the human and economic cost for the East Timorese themselves the cost for Indonesia has also been enormous Up to 20000 military personnel have lost their lives Many Indonesian families continue to lose loved ones fighting guerrilla insurgents whom the government regularly report as being a spent force Large sums of scarce development funds have also been pumped into East Timor yet the loyalty of the local population remains suspect Finally constant international scrutiny and criticism have hampered Indonesia on the international stage The fact that President Suharto is yet to visit Australia or the United States attests to the strong feelings the East Timor conflict raises in both countries Why then if the costs have been so high for both sides has there been no resolution of the East Timor conflict In this New World Order - where a Nelson Mandela can be released from prison to become South Africas first Black President when Yasser Arafat can turn his back on years of struggle and shake hands with his archenemy
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