Friday, March 17, 2006

East Timor fires 500 soldiers

From correspondents in Dili
16 March 2006
"EAST Timor's military commander today said he had fired about 500 soldiers, or about a third of the country's regular armed forces, for deserting last month.
"As of March 1, the soldiers have been declared civilians. The door has been closed for them," Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak said.
About 500 East Timorese soldiers deserted last month in protest against alleged discrimination and over-zealous surveillance.
The fledgling East Timorese army has about 1500 regular soldiers and 1500 reservists.
"We don't mind being fired as long as our complaints are being addressed. But our dismissal is not the best way to solve the problems," one of the officers, Lieutenant Gastao Salvinha, told reporters.
The soldiers took their grievances to President Xanana Gusmao, a former guerrilla leader. Afterwards they returned to their barracks, but then deserted again shortly afterwards.
Many of the deserters were former resistance fighters unused to the discipline of a regular military force.
East Timorese guerrilla forces fought against Indonesian troops during their almost 24 years of occupation of the former Portuguese colony. The country became the world's youngest nation in May 2002."
Source: The Strait Times (from UNOTIL Public Information Office, Daily Media Review)

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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