The Portuguese began to trade with the island of Timor in the early 16th century and colonized it in mid-century. 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 Timor-Leste from 1942 to 1945, but Portugal resumed colonial authority after the Japanese defeat in World War II. Timor-Leste 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-Leste. An unsuccessful campaign of pacification followed over the next two decades, during which an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 individuals lost their lives. On 30 August 1999, in a UN-supervised popular referendum, an overwhelming majority of the people of Timor-Leste voted for independence from Indonesia. Between the referendum and the arrival of a multinational peacekeeping force in late September 1999, 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 forcibly pushed 300,000 people into western Timor as refugees. The majority of the country's infrastructure, including homes, irrigation systems, water supply systems, and schools, and nearly 100% of the country's electrical grid were destroyed. On 20 September 1999 the Australian-led peacekeeping troops of the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) deployed to the country and brought the violence to an end. On 20 May 2002, Timor-Leste was internationally recognized as an independent state. A military strike led to violence and a near breakdown of law and order in late April 2006. Over 2,000 Australian, New Zealand, and Portuguese police and peacekeepers deployed to Timor-Leste in late May. Although many of the peacekeepers were replaced by UN police officers, 780 Australian soldiers remained as of November 2007.
NOTE: The information regarding Timor-Leste on this page is re-published from the 2008 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Timor-Leste Introduction 2008 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Timor-Leste Introduction 2008 should be addressed to the CIA.
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