The state leaders of Timor-Leste make statements every day about the need tighten security measures against drug trafficking and other organized crimes. In the past several months, Timor-Leste has become an international drug trafficking zone through our international airport and our land border with Indonesia. There may also be some drug trafficking through our maritime border.
On this issue, yesterday the State Secretary of Defense (SED) Dr. Julio Tomas Pinto was quoted (Jornal Nacional Diario pg.7. 17 Dec.2012) as saying that Timor-Leste will deploy the army to the border area to combat drug traffickers and networking.
This statement is a kind of declaration of a war against drugs in Timor-Leste. However, before we continue on this path, we must reference the experiences of other countries abroad, like Mexico, that have also engaged in a war against drugs.
Fundasaun Mahein has no position on the efforts to place military troops in the border areas to combat drug traffickers. We would like to offer a list of Advantages and Disadvantages to this plan as discovered by the country of Mexico, which has deployed military troops in different Mexican states since 2006.
• Increased manpower to man checkpoints, patrol streets, and support local police.
• Drug-related violence decreases due to increased law enforcement presence.
• If work with Indonesia, bilateral cooperation could use resources more efficiently on both sides of the border
• Increased risk of human rights abuses through military tactics – heavy-handed measures that lack transparency.
• Law enforcement breakdown from overlapping roles between the military and the police.
• Confusion stems from roles that are not clearly defined.
• Police feel they do not have to enforce community laws because somebody else is doing it.
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• Violence just shifts to another area of Timor-Leste as soon as troops are deployed to another area, as military deployments are slow-moving and cumbersome.
• New community issues arise for an area after troops arrive.
• Members of the F-FDTL may easily be recruited to work for drug traffickers as their current salaries are very low. Many of the most vicious drug traffickers in Mexico were formally part of the Mexican military.
Points to Consider from the Experience in Mexico :
• Aim to maintain flexibility to deploy troops rapidly and effectively to targeted areas whenever violence surges.
• Keep the organized crime associated with drug trafficking out of local politics.
• The war must be fought against more than drug traffickers.
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The country with the people demanding and buying drugs must stop those citizens. The country with the people providing weapons must intercept these weapons.
• Send development aid to hard-hit areas – create other economic opportunities aside from drug trafficking.
After these points, Fundasaun Mahein recommends that parliament make laws against drugs and organized crime, considering the specific context of Timor-Leste.
It is especially important to consider if the members of the F-FDTL and TNI will end up fighting for the drug traffickers.
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Both the F-FDTL and TNI salaries are very low. A lot of opportunities for defection to the side of the drug traffickers will be created.
Also, these anti-drug activities – with or without the F-FDTL military involvement – would be a good chance to strengthen the ability of the police to the first line of defense against all sorts of community crime. This is a good opportunity to empower the police against other types of organized crimes including money laundering and human trafficking by reinforcing their skills to combat these issues.
It would be good if we could continue de-militarization of the border area, and keep the border as a peace zone. Therefore, Fundasaun Mahein asks to the leaders of this country, how can we re-think the military deployment to the border ar