Are Drugs a Serious Threat to Timor-Leste?

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Are Drugs a Serious Threat to Timor-Leste?
Fundasaun Mahein (FM), 14 May 2015

Press Release

The threat posed by drugs to Timor-Leste has recently become a major public concern, as fears have mounted that drug use would become more widespread and threaten society and the stability of the country.

Available data shows case of drugs have been detected and captured by the authorities. From 2011 to March 2015, there have been 40 registered drug cases, with 22 cases ending in a prison sentence for the offender, with the remainder either being found not-guilty or receiving civil penalties. These cases involved both Timorese as well as foreigners consuming, selling, and distributing drugs across Timor-Leste as well as trafficking to neighboring countries. This raises concerns that Timor-Leste is becoming a transit point in the international drug trade.

Fundasaun Mahein’s (FM) monitoring reveals that drug trafficking by organized crime networks takes place through air, sea and land routes. In some instances these networks make use of shipping agencies to move their illegal products internationally. The domestic drug trade is largely handled by Timorese citizens.

Drug trafficking by members of international criminal syndicates poses the risk of growing local networks in Timor-Leste. In one example case of drug trafficking, an organized crime network shipped drugs from Africa via Singapore to Timor-Leste, before distributing to Indonesia for sale and consumption.

FM believes that Timorese security forces are not prepared to deal with drug trafficking; airports, seaports, and the land border lack the adequately trained personnel and equipment to detect and seize drug shipments. International organized crime is also aware of the security situation of Timor-Leste, and is taking advantage of the vulnerability of the nation as a transit point for their illegal activities.

Regarding local drug use, FM’s research shows that at least 64 of Timorese have been arrested for consuming illegal drugs, comprising of 57 males and 7 females. Despite the relatively small number of arrests, it is important to note that many users evade authorities’ notice, and that the large number of unemployed Timorese youth are particularly susceptible to the corruption of drugs.

Large numbers of Timorese studying at universities in Indonesia. Several cases have been reported involving these individuals in crimes ranging from homicide to smuggling activities. FM is concerned that these individuals are vulnerable, and can be recruited by organized crime networks to become involved in drug trafficking. FM is also concerned with Indonesia’s strict laws regarding drugs, which proscribe the death penalty for drug traffickers. It has been published by international media so far this year, more than ten individuals have been executed or drug related offences in Indonesia, the majority of them foreign citizens.


1. FM recommends the government and the national parliament prioritize discussion of the draft law on drug trafficking and consumption.

2. FM recommends the government strengthen the monitoring of Timor-Leste’s land borders, and provide sufficient personnel and equipment to deter drug trafficking through airports and seaports.

3. FM recommends the government organize a special body tasked with investigating and prosecuting cases of drug trafficking.

4. FM recommends the government create a national commission for preventing drug use via a national campaign to alert people to dangers of drugs, as well as construct a rehabilitation facility to provide treatment to drug users.

To know more details on this issue please see the following:


Nélson Belo
FM Executive Director
Phone (+670) 7737-4222 or (+670) 78316075

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