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Timor crisis: UN intervention a slap for ASEAN?

Updated On: Jun 09, 2006

The spreading of violence in Timor Leste and the possible intervention by the UN for the next two years poses as a test for ASEAN as the primary facilitator of peace in South-east Asia.

While ASEAN has committed itself to the creation of an ASEAN Security Community, it has yet to go beyond dialogues to translate into what it means and takes to be a Security Community.  This has led an analyst to question “what is the use of an ASEAN Security Community if ASEAN cannot play any significant role to help a nascent nation-state in crisis right on its very doorstep?”.

And indeed, this is something that ASEAN needs to ponder and reflect upon.  In the current crisis, Australia was again the first to move in again.  Other than Malaysia, no other ASEAN states have sent any peacekeeping forces to Timor.

Underlying the seriousness of the crisis and the need for UN and more Asian states to be involved, Australia Defence Minister Brendan Nelson had warned on Sunday that Timor Leste could fail as a nation-state with the potential of turning into a haven for crime and terrorism which could threaten the region.

Mr Nelson had expected more Asian states to send troops but he also emphasized that “its important from the perspective of other Asian countries in the region that the United Nations be seen to be endorsing this and most importantly that the Timorese government says it wants these countries to be involved,” he said during the Shangrila-La Dialogue (a regional security summit) in Singapore last weekend.

According to Timor Leste’s Foreign and Defence Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, the UN is expected to debate on the size and shape of the force next week and that it could be deployed within two to three months. “Certainly with the collapse of local police in East Timor, there is a much stronger argument for the next UN mandate to include that capability,” said Australian Ambassador to the UN Robert Hill. Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has also agreed to an international probe into the violence which has killed at least 30 people and left another 100,000 homeless.

The violence is known to have spread to the countryside to the town of Gleno, the capital of Ermera district.

The government has been blamed for the violence and many protestors are calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri. Defence Minister Jose Ramos has expressed willingness to take over if Mari Alkairi “resigns, as long as it was done within a democratic and constitutional framework.”

Sources:

Timor Leste ‘needs UN cops for 2 years’ (Straits Times, 8 June 2006)

Timor may get more Asian peacekeepers (Straits Times, 6 June 2006)

A slap in the face for Asean? (Straits Times, 8 June 2006)

Violence spreads to Timor countryside (Bangkok Post, 8 June 2006)

UN considers E Timor force (Herald Sun, 8 June 2006)

E Timor violence hits second town (BBC, 8 June 2006)

Timor violence spreads beyond Dili (CNN, 8 June 2006)

East Timor defence minister willing to take over as PM (Forbes, 7 June 2006)