More Maps of Timor Leste
The first inhabitants, who were of Veddo-Australoid and Melanesian origins, arrived in Timor Leste (East Timor) some 42,000 years ago.
The first recorded Europeans to arrive were the Portuguese in the 16th century, who traded with the locals. By the middle of the century, the locals were colonized but it was only upon the arrival of the Dominican friars in 1556 that conversion to Catholicism occurred in the region.
For the next decades, Timor Leste (East Timor) remained a colony but development was very slow, with very little infrastructure built on the island. On November 28, 1975, Timor Leste was granted full independence.
Nine days later, Indonesian troops invaded Timor Leste, making it an extension of Indonesia. For the next 2 decades, major investments were made to develop the country but it also came with an unprecedented wave of violence. After 2 decades of occupation, a total of 102,800 conflict-related deaths were recorded.
The atrocities done by the Indonesian troops against pro-democracy activists first came into international consciousness when the 1991 Dili Massacre took place. About 200 unarmed and peaceful protesters were murdered at the Sta. Cruz Cemetery located in the capital of Dili. Western journalists who recorded footage of the massacre smuggled the tapes to Australia and they were shown to the world.
The event prompted the US to withdraw their support from the Indonesian military and growing pressure from the international community resulted to the support for an independent Timor Leste. On August 30, 1999, a UN-sponsored referendum resulted to a 78% vote for independence, prompting Indonesian-trained anti-independence militia to wreak havoc in the country. About 1,400 people were killed, and over 300,000 people were forced to flee to West Timor as refugees.
On September 20, 1999, the International Force for Timor Leste, which comprised of over 9,000 soldiers from many countries, mostly Australia, was deployed to Timor Leste. The International Force eventually ended the violence.
After the UN-administered transition period, Timor Leste was recognized internationally as an independent sovereign state on May 20, 2002 - becoming the first sovereign state of the 21st century.
Timor Leste is located in Maritime Southeast Asia, at the eastern tip of the Indonesian archipelago. They are the largest of the Lesser Sunda Islands, with the Timor Sea to its south and Darwin, Australia about 600 km away.
The main island is mostly mountainous with Tatamailau the highest peak at 9,721 feet above sea level. Climate is tropical, characterized as hot and humid.
Timor Leste has a parliamentary government, with the President as Head of State and the Prime Minister as Head of Government. The President is elected through popular vote and serves a 5-year term. It is the President's responsibility to appoint the Prime Minister.
The National Parliament, also elected by popular vote for a 5-year term is made up of about 65 members.
Timor Leste's constitution is patterned after Portugal, but the government is still undergoing further developments in its administrative and government institutions.
Tourists are rare in Timor Leste, with visitors mainly visiting the state for its serene beaches and protected bird sanctuaries.
Timor Leste's first national park is the Nino Konis Santana National Park, which has over 200 cultural sites and protected areas that serve as home to many endangered bird species. It's one of the state's most popular tourist attractions.
Dili is the most popular city to visit. The capital was destroyed several times over during the wars that took place but many Portuguese buildings still remain. Among the most popular sites in the capital are the Cristo Rei - erected during the Indonesian occupation in 1996; and the President's Palace found on the northern coast of the city.
Atauro Island is a small island off the mainland, with a population of 8,000, comprised mainly of farmers and fishers. The island has a few resorts and accommodation, offering scuba diving services to the hectares of corals found in the Coral Triangle - said to have the greatest coral and reef biodiversity in the world.
Adult literacy rate in Timor Leste is at 58.3%. There are 4 colleges in the state, with the National University of Timor Leste the main university.
- 98% of Timor Leste natives are Roman Catholics, being one of only two Christian nations in Southeast Asia.
- Their currency is the US dollar.
- Timor Leste is one of the poorest nations in the world, with 37.4% of the population living below the international poverty line.
- Elections were held in the state for the very first time in 2001.
Last Updated : November 04, 2014
Official Name Timor Leste
Official LanguagePortuguese, Tetun
Major ReligionPortuguese missionaries introduced Christianity to the island and now, 90 percent of Timorese are Catholic and roughly 70 percent are observant. Protestants are the second major religion in Timor-Leste, after which come Animism and Islam.
National day28 November (1975)
Form of GovernmentUnitary state, Republic, Democracy, Parliamentary system
PresidentTaur Matan Ruak
Prime MinisterXanana Gusmao
GDP$10.952 billion 2012 estimate