Riots and panic in East Timor

Violence broke out in East Timor's capital Dili earlier today.

Dili-gence says

The usual press outlets have already reported 2 dead and 21 injured. We received a phone call from a Timorese in the current hot area Comorro. People are scared and people have seen smoke rising from the general area.

Mainstream news sources are blaming sacked soldiers for the trouble. About 500 soldiers were sacked last month after they deserted the army protesting unfairness in promotions. The soldiers were demonstrating in the capital city Dili all this week.

However, Sam at Dili-Dallying blog does not think so

What appears to have happened is that disturbances have occurred next to the government building in the heart of the city, about a kilometre from here. Young men have destroyed property and set buildings and cars on fire. It is unclear whether these men are part of the ‘591’ sacked military, members of martial arts groups (gangs) or random individuals. Given the situation has been mostly calm all week with the ‘591’ conducting themselves peacefully, I would guess that it is the gangs taking advantage of the situation but I cannot be sure. (The unemployment rate for young people in Dili is 40% and some young male members channel their frustrations vis-à-vis martial arts groups.)

Dili-gence , writing in an earlier post, also thinks that the news sources are missing something

One point which it seems to miss is that the violent part of the unrest appears to have little to do with the military labour dispute itself. My understanding is that the main issue is the tensions between Timor-Leste westerners and easterners (monu versus lorosae). The violent bits at this stage, appear to be westerners picking on easterners who now reside in Dili (Dili being on the west of the divide).

Blogger at tumbleweed in timor lorosae blames the rumour mongers for the troubles.

The Timorese, thanks to the horrors of the '99 violence still fresh on their minds, have a panic button that is very very easily triggered.You can't blame them because their brothers, sisters, friends and relatives were indeed killed before and they themselves victims of the violence. So whenever there are rumours or any hint of anything not right, families flee to the hills for refuge.

And you know what, some people know this weakness and are exploiting it. The demonstrators may be having a peaceful protest but anyone, just one or two persons who are keen on creating trouble, to loot for personal gains or to upset the current government, can so easily spark off panic.

Dili-gence ends with

Lets just say we have bunkered down for the moment.

Sam says

The situation remains tense. We have heard reports of people throwing rocks at bis (bus) headed for the east to Baukau and Lospalos. Many Dili residents are also fleeing to the surrounding hills.

What a fragile democracy is Timor.

and Tumbleweed is disappointed too

it's so unfair for timor! we need the peace right now for the economy to progress and we need stability. the LAST thing we need is this thing now!

if you want to help timor, the first thing to do is to get the facts right.. which is extremely difficult too. i mean, as i write this i am in the office, safe and surrounded by guards, i can't see the situation outside and am depending on reports from people to even blog this.


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