East Timor solidarity movement sets goals

March 18, 1998

By Max Lane

BANGKOK — Between March 4-6, affiliates and supporters of the Asia Pacific Coalition on East Timor met for the third APCET conference here. More than 50 representatives from Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Malaysia, Australia, the United States, Britain and Canada participated.

The conference was hosted by the Thai Friends of East Timor, the Asian Council for Human Rights and Development, and the Thai Council for Civil Liberties.

The hosts were harassed throughout the conference by the Thai authorities. The Thai Department of Foreign Affairs asked the Thai Labour Ministry to deport all foreign conference participants for not having work permits. At one point, the police threatened to arrest all foreign participants. At another, police entered the symposium area to video the proceedings. The hosts eventually negotiated an agreement with the authorities.

Indonesian representatives included the two APCET affiliates, Indonesian People in Solidarity with the Maubere People, established by the People's Democratic Party, and the student-based human rights group PIJAR. The Alliance for Independent Journalists and the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association were also represented.

The East Timorese resistance was represented by Indonesia- and Portugal-based members of Renetil, one of the main nationalist student organisations. The Melbourne representative of the National Council of Maubere Resistance also attended. An Australian-based representative of Fretilin was invited but unable to attend.

Australian representation included Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor, an APCET affiliate, plus representatives of the NSW Australia East Timor Association, the Darwin-based East Timor International Support Centre, and the Sydney-based non-government welfare organisation, the East Timor Relief Association.

The conference reaffirmed its commitment to support the struggle for self-determination in East Timor and the struggle of the Indonesian democratic movement. It condemned recent repressive actions taken against East Timorese, including death sentences against two East Timorese activists in Indonesia.

The conference planned speaking tours of Asian countries by an Indonesian and an East Timorese activist and the publication of a book documenting military ties between Asia Pacific countries and the Suharto regime.

Reflecting confidence in the increasing strength of the Indonesian democratic movement, the conference declared that the next APCET conference would be held in Jakarta in 2000.

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