The history of Timor Leste

Timor Leste’s modern history has been both turbulent and tragic from the moment Portuguese landed in the early 16th century.

In the centuries that followed, the Portuguese battled with the Dutch and the Timorese kingdoms for control of the island, eventually resulting in partition under the terms of the Treaty of Lisbon in 1859, which established the border between Portuguese Timor and the Dutch East Indies.

During the Second World War the island was occupied by Japanese forces.

East Timor was invaded in 1975 by Indonesia – which marked the start of a 24-year struggle that cost the lives of over 100,000 Timorese. The East Timorese finally voted on their future in 1999. Several years of internal instability and civil unrest followed this vote, partly due to localized insurgency against Indonesian military, which claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians and had a devastating effect on infrastructure.

A UN-endorsed, Australian-led peacekeeping force followed by a UN mission supported the transition to independence, changing the history of Timor Leste.  Independence  was celebrated on 20 May 2002, making Timor Leste the youngest country in Asia.

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