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After years of struggle, August 1999 finally saw a vote of self-determination in East Timor.

Despite intense intimidation from Indonesian troops to discourage voting, the overwhelming majority of East Timorese called for independence (75% of the 99% turn-out).

As a result, the Indonesian military-backed militia went on a terror campaign. Much of East Timor was destroyed and approximately 200,000 to 300,000 refugees were created.

Jakarta declared martial law in East Timor and the killings, massacres, rapes, burnings and lootings continued.

As refugees poured into West Timor, so did the militia trying to hunt them down.

It was a tactical move to lure people into the neighbouring country, which, unlike East Timor, is part of Indonesia.

As well as fleeing from East Timor to West Timor, many escaped into the hills where humanitarian aid could not reach them.

And once again, the international community, especially those who supported and backed the Indonesian regime, were easily able to exert pressure on Jakarta to stop this violence, yet they were slow to do so.

Australian-led UN peacekeeping forces finally landed in Dili, East Timor in October 1999 after the US, UK and others stopped aid to Indonesia.

It was no coincidence that the Indonesian legislature then ratified the East Timorese vote on 20 October, 1999, allowing East Timor to officially become an independent nation.

Washington and London were clearly still influencing Jakarta while the East Timorese were forced to bear more violence and suffering.

Two weeks after the Australian landing, troops had not even made it out of Dili.

There has been talk of the IMF and World Bank offering help in the building and rebuilding of the nation of East Timor.

But this will simply result in the loans and economic policies that have lead to poverty in Vietnam and all around the world.

And to this day, the return of refugees (as many as 100,000 are still unaccounted for), the end of militia activity and prosecution of rights violators are all outstanding priorities.

The East Timorese in West Timor continue to face oppression and human rights abuses which are hidden from journalists and the UN peacekeeping forces who are only allowed into East Timor.

Annexed from their own, now independent, nation they are still the prisoners of Indonesia, still fighting for freedom.

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