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An Asian country that occupies the eastern half of the island of Timor in the southern Malay Archipelago. The western half of the island is part of Indonesia.


Timor‐Leste is mainly mountainous and has a monsoon climate.


Agriculture is the predominant economic sector, employing 90% of the population. Coffee is the main export; other important crops include rice and maize. Offshore oil and gas reserves have yet to be exploited. A lack of onshore natural resources, underdevelopment, and a generation of conflict and repression have made East Timor the poorest nation in Asia.


In colonial times Timor was divided into Dutch West Timor and Portuguese East Timor. In 1950 West Timor was absorbed into the newly formed Republic of Indonesia. In 1975, during the collapse of the Portuguese colonial empire, East Timor briefly declared itself independent from Portugal but was invaded and occupied by Indonesia. In 1976, against the wishes of the inhabitants, Indonesia formally annexed East Timor and administered it as the province of Timur Timur or Loro Sae. The independence movement was violently suppressed. A referendum in 1999, supervised by the UN, overwhelmingly supported independence from Indonesia. However, a pro‐Indonesian militia murdered many of those who voted for independence and devastated the capital, Dili. Thousands of people fled or went into hiding. A UN administration and peacekeeping force was established to effect the transition to independence, which was achieved in May 2002 with the former guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmão as President. In 2006 there were violent protests involving former members of the security forces; Australian and New Zealand troops were required to restore order.

Source: MAPS IN MINUTES™ © RH Publications (1997)




14,874 sq km (5743 sq miles)


975,000 (2005)


1 US dollar = 100 cents


Roman Catholic 87.0%; Protestant 5.0%; Muslim 3.0%; traditional beliefs 3.0%

Ethnic Groups:

East Timorese 80.0%; Indonesian c.20%


Portuguese, Tetum (both official)

International Organizations:


Subjects: History

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