The UN High Commission for Refugees has announced it plans to send aid to help the estimated 65,000 people displaced by unrest in East Timor. In the short term, tents, plastic tarpaulins and non-perishable supplies will be airlifted on to the island. UN officials have already indicated that extra funding will be needed.
At least 20 people have been killed, thousands displaced and dozens of homes burnt as a result of the recent outbreak of violence. Relative calm has returned to the streets of the capital, Dili, a day after the President announced the imposition of emergency rule. East Timor is the poorest country in Asia. The latest bout of unrest was sparked by the sacking of almost half the army following a strike by troops. The roots of the conflict lie in tensions between separate communities on the island. The striking soldiers, mainly from the West, had complained of discrimination by their superiors, who are mainly from the East. More than 2,250 troops from Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia are currently deployed as peacekeepers in East Timor. The arrival of the first 40 of a contingent of 120 police officers from Portugal has been put back until Friday.