The island of Timor was actively involved in Southeast Asian trading networks for centuries, and by the 14th century exported aromatic sandalwood, slaves, honey, and wax. A number of local chiefdoms ruled the island in the early 16th century when Portuguese traders arrived, chiefly attracted by the relative abundance of sandalwood on Timor; by mid-century, the Portuguese had colonized the island. Skirmishing with the Dutch in the region eventually resulted in an 1859 treaty in which Portugal ceded the western portion of the island. Imperial Japan occupied Portuguese Timor from 1942 to 1945, but Portugal resumed colonial authority after the Japanese defeat in World War II. East Timor declared itself independent from Portugal on 28 November 1975 and was invaded and occupied by Indonesian forces nine days later. It was incorporated into Indonesia in July 1976 as the province of Timor Timur (East Timor or Timor Leste). An unsuccessful campaign of pacification followed over the next two decades, during which an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 people died. In an August 1999 UN-supervised popular referendum, an overwhelming majority of the people of Timor-Leste voted for independence from Indonesia. However, in the next three weeks, anti-independence Timorese militias - organized and supported by the Indonesian military - commenced a large-scale, scorched-earth campaign of retribution. The militias killed approximately 1,400 Timorese and displaced nearly 500,000. Most of the country's infrastructure, including homes, irrigation systems, water supply systems, and schools, and nearly all of the country's electrical grid were destroyed. On 20 September 1999, Australian-led peacekeeping troops deployed to the country and brought the violence to an end. On 20 May 2002, Timor-Leste was internationally recognized as an independent state.
In 2006, internal tensions threatened the new nation's security when a military strike led to violence and a breakdown of law and order. At Dili's request, an Australian-led International Stabilization Force (ISF) deployed to Timor-Leste, and the UN Security Council established the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), which included an authorized police presence of over 1,600 personnel. The ISF and UNMIT restored stability, allowing for presidential and parliamentary elections in 2007 in a largely peaceful atmosphere. In 2008, rebels staged an unsuccessful attack against the president and prime minister. Since the attack, Timor-Leste has made considerable progress in building stability and democratic institutions, holding a series of successful parliamentary and presidential elections since 2012. Nonetheless, weak and unstable political coalitions have led to periodic episodes of political stalemate and crisis in governance. The ISF and UNMIT departed in 2012 but the UN continues to provide assistance on economic development and strengthening governing institutions. Currently, Timor-Leste is one of the world's poorest nations with an economy that relies heavily on energy resources in the Timor Sea.
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NOTE: The information regarding TimorLeste on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of TimorLeste 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about TimorLeste 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.
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