The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, commonly known as East Timor i/ˌiːst ˈtiːmɔr/ (Tetum: Timór Loro-sa'e), is a state in Southeast Asia [note A]. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island, within Indonesian West Timor. The small country of 15,410 km² (5,400 sq mi) is located about 640 km (400 mi) northwest of Darwin, Australia.
East Timor was colonized by Portugal in the 16th century, and was known as Portuguese Timor until Portugal's decolonization of the country. In late 1975, East Timor declared its independence, but later that year was invaded and occupied by Indonesia and was declared Indonesia's 27th province the following year. In 1999, following the United Nations-sponsored act of self-determination, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory and East Timor became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century on May 20, 2002. East Timor is one of only two predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Asia, the other being the Philippines.
East Timor has a lower-middle-income economy. It continues to suffer the aftereffects of a decades-long independence struggle against Indonesia, which damaged infrastructure and displaced thousands of civilians. It is placed 120th by Human Development Index (HDI).
'Recent History'The decolonisation process instigated by the 1974 Portuguese revolution saw Portugal effectively abandon the colony of East Timor. A civil war between supporters of East Timorese political parties, Fretilin and the UDT, broke out in 1975 as UDT attempted a coup which Fretilin resisted with the help of local Portuguese military. Independence was unilaterally declared on November 28, 1975. The Indonesian government was fearful of an independent communist state within the Indonesian archipelago, and at the height of the Cold War, Western governments were supportive of Indonesia's position. The Indonesian military launched a full-scale invasion of East Timor in December 1975. Indonesia declared East Timor as its 27th province on July 17, 1976. The UN Security Council opposed the invasion and the territory's nominal status in the UN remained "non-self-governing territory under Portuguese administration."
Demonstration for independence from Indonesia.Indonesia's occupation of East Timor was marked by violence and brutality. A detailed statistical report prepared for the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor cited a minimum bound of 102,800 conflict-related deaths in the period 1974–1999, namely, approximately 18,600 killings and 84,200 'excess' deaths from hunger and illness. The East Timorese guerrilla force, Falintil, fought a campaign against the Indonesian forces from 1975–1999. The 1991 Dili Massacre was a turning point for the independence cause internationally, and an East Timor solidarity movement grew in Portugal, Australia, and the United States.
Following the resignation of Indonesian President Suharto, a UN-sponsored agreement between Indonesia and Portugal allowed for UN-supervised popular referendum in August 1999. The resulting clear vote for independence was met with a punitive campaign of violence by Timorese pro-integration militia with the support of elements of the Indonesian military (main article 1999 referendum). An Australian led international peacekeeping force, INTERFET, was sent with Indonesian permission to ensure order was restored. The administration of East Timor was taken over by the UN through the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) in October 1999. The INTERFET deployment ended in February 2000 with the transfer of military command to the UN. East Timorese independence was formalised on May 20, 2002 with Xanana Gusmão sworn in as the country's first President. East Timor became a member of the UN on September 27, 2002.
In June 2006, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri resigned as Prime Minister, and José Ramos-Horta was appointed as his successor. The following year, Gusmão declined another presidential term and in the build-up to the April 2007 presidential elections there were renewed outbreaks of violence. José Ramos-Horta was elected President in the May 2007 election. Ramos-Horta was critically injured in an attempted assassination in February 2008. Prime Minister Gusmão also faced gunfire separately but escaped unharmed. Australian reinforcements were immediately sent to help keep order.
In 2006, the United Nations sent in security forces to restore order when unrest and factional fighting forced 15 percent of the population (155,000 people) to flee their homes. In March 2011, the UN handed-off operational control of the police force to the East Timor authorities, but more than 1,200 UN police officer still patrol on the street. After the 2012 presidential election, the missions are scheduled to end