25 February 2013

The Complexities of Timor-Leste-Indonesia Border Control

ETLJB 24 February 2013 - Following a series of incidents at the border between the East Timorese enclave of Oecusse and the Indonesian provice of Nusa Tenggara Timor over the last few months, including clashes between communities, the assault and murder of an East Timorese man and unknown groups running amok, Indonesian and East Timorese officials have met to discuss enforcing security along this particularly porous section of the international border.

The Jakarta Globe has reported (20/02/2013) on a meeting that was held on 19 February 2013 between officials from both countries to discuss enforcing security along a particularly porous section of their shared border.

Felixiano da Costa, the Timor Leste consul in Kupang, conceded that the situation on the border between Oepoli ward in Kupang and Oeccuse ward in Timor Leste was "quite complex" as it entailed longstanding cultural and family ties.

Ayub Titu Eki, the Kupang district head, said that due to the border splitting a community that for decades had lived together, simple enforcement of border integrity was not the best solution for addressing the high number of unauthorized crossings, intermarriages, social interactions and even property transactions.

"We can't rely just on the prevailing rules and regulations to resolve this border problem," he said. "We have to ensure that families split by the border can still meet one another."

The Oepoli-Oeccuse border runs through farmland along the Noel Besi River that is technically considered terra nullius — a Latin term meaning "land belonging to no one."

Residents living there continue to freely pass between the two countries.

"For instance, there are cases of Oepoli residents farming in Oeccuse, and vice versa,"  Ayub said.

"You also get people from one side getting married to someone from the other side, and similarly people who die in the area are sometimes buried on the other side of the border." Source: The Jakarta Globe 20/02/2013, ETLJB. Edited by Warren L. Wright

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