East Timor

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East Timor

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Quick Facts
CurrencyUS dollar (USD)
Areatotal: 15,007 sq km
Population952,618 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageTetum (official), Portuguese (official), Indonesian, English, 16 indigenous languages
ReligionRoman Catholic 90%, Muslim 4%, Protestant 3%, Hindu 0.5%, Buddhist, Animist (1992 est.)

East Timor (Portuguese: Timor Leste) (Tetum: Timor Lorosa'e) is a country in Southeast Asia and is the world's newest independent country. 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 islands of Pulau Atauro and Pulau Jaco.


East Timor consists of 13 Administrative districts.

  • Aileu
  • Ainaro
  • Bobonaro (Maliana)
  • Cova-Lima (Suai)
  • Lautem (Los Palos)
  • Manufahi (Same)
  • Oecussi (Ambeno)


Map of East Timor

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The island of Timor is a former Portuguese colony that declared itself independent from Portugal on 28 November 1975. Nine days later, Indonesian forces invaded and occupied the former colony and annexed it as the province of Timor Timur in July 1976.

Indonesia then conducted a campaign of pacification over the next two decades, during which time an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 individuals lost their lives.

After a UN supervised popular referendum on 30 August 1999, where the people of East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia, gangs of independence opponents, apparently supported by the Indonesian military, terrorised the population in a civil war that destroyed much of the country's infrastructure. A UN peacekeeping force, led by Australian forces was sent in to re-establish a civil society and reconstruct the nation.

On 20 May 2002, East Timor was internationally recognized as an independent state and the world's newest democracy.

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Tetum and Portuguese are official languages, but Indonesian and English are widely spoken. There are also about 16 indigenous languages, of which Tetum, Galole, Mambae, and Kemak are spoken by significant numbers of people.







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Environment - current issues 
widespread use of slash and burn agriculture has led to deforestation and soil erosion
Geography - note 
Timor is the Malay word for "Orient"; the island of Timor is part of the Malay Archipelago and is the largest and easternmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands


Economy - 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.

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international 
East Timor-Indonesia Boundary Committee meets to survey and delimit land boundary; Indonesia seeks resolution of East Timor refugees in Indonesia; Australia-East Timor-Indonesia are working to resolve maritime boundary and sharing of seabed resources in "Timor Gap"