Why didn't the United Nations tried to stop the Annexation of East Timor by Indonesia in 1976?

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  • Big B
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    In 1976, the Portuguese finally withdrew from East Timor.

    When they did, Indonesia annexed the island. No one thought that little poor East Timor could possibly govern itself. Also strategically and geographically, the island of East Timor was closer to Indonesia. Would not have been hard for Indonesia to claim ownership of East timor on historical grounds.

    Historically, the islands that make up Indonesia had been claimed by the European colonial powers - the Dutch and the Portuguese. In international relations, all other countries believed that the islands would come under either Dutch or Portuguese colonial rule.

    So when the Portuguese finally left in 1976, the international status of East Timor was that of unclaimed land - no one thought any different that Indonesia should claim the land as part of a historic Indonesian territory.

    While Australia was annoyed that Indonesia had so blanantly taken over the island, at the same time the Western powers were happy that a non-communist power had claimed the land.

    In the context of the Vietnam war which had just ended, no one was seriously willing to get involved in another potential disaster. The western powers knew that Indonesia was receiving military assistance and foreign aid also from Soviet Union and China.

    Whoever owned East Timor could use it as a possible base for attacking both Indonesia and Australia - strategic geopolitical considerations would have mattered far more in 1976 than any concern over human rights and would have influenced Australian foreign and defence policy considerations in the context of the cold war.

    Australia also was aware that the United States was more willing to cede East Timor to Indonesia, than risk a possible confrontation with a Soviet backed Indonesia. The U.S would not have supported Australia militarily over East Timor.

  • 1 decade ago

    Brian is largely correct. It was a decision 'colored' by the Cold War. But I'd suggest that the US and Australia (and Indonesia) regarded the Portuguese as 'left wing' and Fretilin - who were making the front running on East Timorese independence - as dangerously left wing. The US and Australia were either receptive to a fear campaign that saw East Timor turning into an Asian Cuba, or in fact invented the notion.

    The Indonesians it might be added, had since 1965 a pathological fear of communists. A left wing coup and right wing counter-coup in that year resulted in the death of (at least) hundreds of thousands of Indonesians (and most significantly several Generals). The colleagues of these Generals were running Indonesia in 1976.

    The US was an arms supplier to Indonesia, looked favorably on its strong anti-communist attitude, and had half an eye on the considerable mineral and oil resources of Indonesia. Australia saw more advantage in maintaining a neighborly relationship with a nation of 200 million rather than a new nation of 600,000. Australia also was interested in Indonesia's mineral wealth and had considerable investment in that area.

    So, in the United Nations, the concept of independence for East Timor was up against US and Australian and Indonesian opposition, and the Indonesians knew they could count on the Islamic block (Malaysia and the Middle East) to support them.

    Fundamentally, it was the end of the Cold War that allowed East Timorese independence to occur, but not without tremendous effort by the East Timorese at considerable cost.

  • 1 decade ago

    Because the United Nations cannot enforce anything unless the SEcurity Council acts to stop an aggression or annexation. And it just so happens the United States, one of the five permanent members of the Security Council vetoed any resolution that could have stopped the annexation. The UN ambassador at that time, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, even bragged about it in his memoirs...how he was able to render the U.N. utterly impotent. He pointed out how 10 percent of the Timorese were killed, likening it to the percentages achieved by the Nazi's in Eastern Europe. A disgusting history that very few Americans know about.

    P.S. The US was providing the Indonesians most of the arms and Gerald Ford (the President when the invasion began) was there the NIGHT BEFORE the invasion began...which tells you who approved it.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Simple answer -- the Indonesians were willing to commit their armed forces to acquire it; and it would have taken an international force to stop them, approved by the UN Security Council. No nation wanted to commit the necessary troops for a tiny strip of land far away from their national interests. So it wasn't done. Too high a cost -- too little benefit.

    Sorry -- but that's the answer.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    they didnt care

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