Indonesian Occupation of East Timor 1975-1989

(Timor War)

[ 1975 - 1989 ]

East Timor and the small enclave of Oecusse on the north coast of the island of Timor were poor and neglected corners of Portugal's overseas empire when officers of Portugal's Armed Forces Movement, led by General António de Spínola, seized power in Lisbon in April 1974. Convinced that his country's continued occupation of overseas territories, especially in Africa, was excessively costly and ultimately futile, Spínola initiated a hasty "decolonization" process. In Portuguese Timor, local political groups responded: the Timor Democratic Union (UDT) favored a continued association with Lisbon, the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin), demanded full independence, and the Popular Democratic Association of Timor (Apodeti) favored integration with Indonesia.

Although Indonesia's minister of foreign affairs, Adam Malik, assured Portugal's foreign minister on his visit to Jakarta that Indonesia would adhere to the principle of self-determination for all peoples, attitudes had apparently changed by the summer of 1974. Fretilin's leftist rhetoric was disquieting, and Jakarta began actively supporting Fretilin's opponent, Apodeti. Fears grew that an independent East Timor under Fretilin could become a beachhead for communist subversion. At a meeting between Suharto and Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam in September 1974, the latter acknowledged that it might be best for East Timor to join Indonesia but that the Australian public would not stand for the use of force. This acknowledgment seemed to open the way for a more forward policy. External factors relating to the communist subversion theme were the conquest of South Vietnam by communist North Vietnam in May 1975 and the possibility of a Chinese takeover of the Portuguese colony of Macao.

Fretilin had become the dominant political force inside East Timor by mid-1975, and its troops seized the bulk of the colonial armory as the Portuguese hastened to disengage themselves from the territory. An abortive coup d'état by UDT supporters on August 10, 1975, led to a civil war between Fretilin and an anticommunist coalition of UDT and Apodeti. Fretilin occupied most of the territory by September, causing Jakarta to give the UDT and Apodeti clandestine military support. On November 25, 1975, Fretilin proclaimed the Democratic Republic of East Timor. Jakarta responded immediately. On December 7, Indonesian "volunteer" forces landed at Dili, the capital, and Baukau. By April 1976, there were an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 Indonesian troops in the territory. On July 15, 1976, East Timor was made Indonesia's twenty-seventh province: Timor Timur.

Indonesian troops carried out a harsh campaign of pacification that inflicted grave suffering on local populations. Through the late 1970s and 1980s, accounts of military repression, mass starvation, and disease focused international attention on Indonesia as a major violator of human rights. An undetermined number--from 100,000 to 250,000--of East Timor's approximately 650,000 inhabitants died as a result of the armed occupation. However, by the mid-1980s, most of the armed members of Fretilin had been defeated, and in 1989 the province was declared open to free domestic and foreign travel.

<table class='table table-bordered col-lg-12 col-md-12 col-sm-12 col-xs-12 margin20 row-30' border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);"><tbody><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">State</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Entry</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Exit</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Combat Forces</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Population</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Losses</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Indonesia</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1975</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1987</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">278000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">161000000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">125000</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Timor</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1975</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1987</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">30000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">12000000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">6000</font></td></tr></tbody></table>

Total Casualties Killed and Wounded
Casualties Killed / Wounded
Military Casualties Killed 131000 /Wounded
Civilian Casualties Killed / Wounded
Note
Belligerents Initiation Date Termination Date
Indonesia and East Timor 1975 1987 View
Weapon Name Weapon Class Weapon Class Type
Mauser–Vergueiro Manportable Rifles

Related Conflicts

No Releted Conflicts