Let your memory be your travel bag.
— Alexander Solzhenitsyn, 1918 - 2008
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Timor-Leste

Background

Timor-Leste

The Portuguese began to trade with the island of Timor in the early 16th century and colonized it in mid-century. Skirmishing with the Dutch in the region eventually resulted in an 1859 treaty in which Portugal ceded the western portion of the island. Imperial Japan occupied Portuguese Timor from 1942 to 1945, but Portugal resumed colonial authority after the Japanese defeat in World War II. East Timor declared itself independent from Portugal on 28 November 1975 and was invaded and occupied by Indonesian forces nine days later. It was incorporated into Indonesia in July 1976 as the province of Timor Timur (East Timor). An unsuccessful campaign of pacification followed over the next two decades, during which an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 individuals lost their lives. On 30 August 1999, in a UN-supervised popular referendum, an overwhelming majority of the people of Timor-Leste voted for independence from Indonesia. Between the referendum and the arrival of a multinational peacekeeping force in late September 1999, anti-independence Timorese militias - organized and supported by the Indonesian military - commenced a large-scale, scorched-earth campaign of retribution. The militias killed approximately 1,400 Timorese and forcibly pushed 300,000 people into western Timor as refugees. The majority of the country's infrastructure, including homes, irrigation systems, water supply systems, and schools, and nearly 100% of the country's electrical grid were destroyed. On 20 September 1999, the Australian-led peacekeeping troops of the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) deployed to the country and brought the violence to an end. On 20 May 2002, Timor-Leste was internationally recognized as an independent state. In late April 2006, internal tensions threatened the new nation's security when a military strike led to violence and a near breakdown of law and order. At Dili's request, an Australian-led International Stabilization Force (ISF) deployed to Timor-Leste in late May. In August, the UN Security Council established the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), which included an authorized police presence of over 1,600 personnel. The ISF and UNMIT restored stability, allowing for presidential and parliamentary elections in April and June 2007 in a largely peaceful atmosphere. In February 2008, a rebel group staged an unsuccessful attack against the president and prime minister. The ringleader was killed in the attack and the majority of the rebels surrendered in April 2008. Since the unsuccessful attacks the government has enjoyed one of its longest periods of post-independence stability.

About

East Timor (Portuguese: Timor-Leste, Tetum: Timor Lorosa'e, Indonesian: Timor Timur) is a country in Southeast Asia. It lies northwest of Australia in the Lesser Sunda Islands at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago. East Timor includes the eastern half of the island of Timor, the Oecussi (Ambeno) region on the northwest portion of the island of Timor, and the small islands of Atauro and Jaco.

Read more about Timor-Leste in our Timor-Leste travel guide »

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Timor-Leste

Full name
Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
Capital
Dili
Location

Southeastern Asia, northwest of Australia in the Lesser Sunda Islands at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago; note - Timor-Leste includes the eastern half of the island of Timor, the Oecussi (Ambeno) region on the northwest portion of the island of Timor, and the islands of Pulau Atauro and Pulau Jaco

Geographic coordinates

8 50 S, 125 55 E

Area comparative

slightly larger than Connecticut

Border countries

Indonesia 228 km

Coastline

706 km

Climate

tropical; hot, humid; distinct rainy and dry seasons

Terrain

mountainous

Lowest point

Timor Sea, Savu Sea, and Banda Sea 0 m

Highest point

Foho Tatamailau 2,963 m

Natural resources

gold, petroleum, natural gas, manganese, marble

Population

1,154,625

Ethnic groups

Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian), Papuan, small Chinese minority

Religions

Roman Catholic 98%, Muslim 1%, Protestant 1% (2005)

Languages

Tetum (official), Portuguese (official), Indonesian, English

Government type

republic

Independence

28 November 1975 (independence proclaimed from Portugal); note - 20 May 2002 is the official date of international recognition of Timor-Leste's independence from Indonesia

National holiday

Independence Day, 28 November (1975)

Chief of state

President Jose RAMOS-HORTA (since 20 May 2007); note - the president plays a largely symbolic role but is able to veto legislation, dissolve parliament, and call national elections

Head of government

Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana GUSMAO (since 8 August 2007), note - he formerly used the name Jose Alexandre GUSMAO; Vice Prime Minister Jose Luis GUTERRES (since 8 August 2007)

Internet country code

.tl

Internet users

2,100 (2009)

Airports

6 (2010)

Ports and terminals

Dili

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