|General background: The Portuguese colony of
Timor declared itself independent from Portugal on 28
November 1975 and was invaded and occupied by Indonesian
forces nine days later. It was subsequently incorporated
into Indonesia in July 1976 as the province of Timor Timur.
A so-called campaign of pacification followed, during
which time an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 individuals
lost their lives. On 30 August 1999, in a UN-supervised
popular referendum, the people of Timor Timur voted for
independence from Indonesia. On 20 May 2002, East Timor
was internationally recognized as an independent state
and the world's newest democracy.
Slightly larger than Connecticut
Tropical; hot, humid; distinct rainy and dry seasons
952,618 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian),
Papuan, small Chinese minority
Religions: Roman Catholic 90%, Muslim 4%, Protestant
3%, Hindu 0.5%, Buddhist, Animist (1992 est.)
Language: Tetum (official), Portuguese (official),
note: there are a total of about 16 indigenous
languages, of which Tetum, Galole, Mambae, and Kemak
are spoken by significant numbers of people.
Government type: Republic
Legal system: N/A
Economic overview: In late 1999, about 70% of
the economic infrastructure of East Timor was laid waste
by Indonesian troops and anti-independence militias,
and 260,000 people fled westward. Over the next three
years, however, a massive international program, manned
by 5,000 peacekeepers (8,000 at peak) and 1,300 police
officers, led to substantial reconstruction in both
urban and rural areas. By mid-2002, all but about 50,000
of the refugees had returned. The country faces great
challenges in continuing the rebuilding of infrastructure
and the strengthening of the infant civil administration.
One promising long-term project would be development
of oil resources in nearby waters.
Communication/Telephone system: N/A
Places of interest:
Travel tips: Though the situation has improved
as of late, militia activity has potential to recur
in the western regions of the country. Visitors should
stay away from the border areas between East and West
Timor. Overland travel into East Timor is not advised.