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Timor-Leste Facts

What is Timor-Leste?
Timor-Leste, or East Timor, is a sovereign democracy in Southeast Asia.

Where is Timor-Leste located?
Timor-Leste is located in Southeast Asia, just north of Darwin, Australia.

Timor-Leste is on the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago, making up the eastern half of Timor
Island, as well as the Oecussi region of northwestern Timor Island, and the islands Pulau Atauro and Pulau Jaco.

Timor-Leste shares a land border with Indonesia’s Province, East Nusa Tenggara. It is situated between the Timor Sea, the Savu Sea, and the Ombai and Wetar Straits.

How big is Timor-Leste?
Timor-Leste is approximately 14,874 square kilometers.

What is the population of Timor-Leste?

Timor-Leste’s population is estimated around 1 million.

What is the capital of Timor-Leste?
Dili is Timor-Leste’s capital city and largest city. Located on the island’s northern coast, Dili was settled as a port city by Portuguese traders in 1520. Dili became the capital of Portuguese Timor in 1864, and has remained the capital of Timor-Leste.

What form of currency is used in Timor-Leste?
Timor-Leste uses the US dollar as its official currency.

What languages are spoken in Timor-Leste?
The official languages of Timor-Leste are Tetum and Portuguese. Indonesian and English are also widely spoken. There are 16 indigenous languages of Timor-Leste including Tetum, Galole, Mambae, Kemak, which are the largest ones.

What are the main religions practiced in Timor-Leste?
Because of Portuguese influence on Timor-Leste from its colonial past, the nation is one of two majority Catholic nations in Asia (Philippines). The country is about 98% Roman Catholic, 1% Muslim, and 1% Protestant.

When did Timor-Leste achieve independence?
The nation declared independence from Portugal on November 28, 1975.

On May 20, 2002, Timor-Leste was recognized as independent from Indonesia, though they first voted for independence on August 30, 1999.

How did Timor-Leste achieve independence?
Timor-Leste was ruled by outsiders for centuries. Portuguese traders colonized eastern Timor in the mid 16th century, declaring Portuguese Timor in 1769. The Dutch occupied the western portion of the island. Imperial Japan occupied Portuguese Timor during WWII, from 1942 to 1945, though it returned to Portgual after Japan was defeated.

East Timor declared independence from Portugal on November 28, 1975. A few days later, Indonesia invaded the newly independent country, incorporating it into Indonesia as Timor Timur (East Timor) in July 1976. This was followed by a period of unrest and violence in the region, under Indonesian rule.

In 1999, the UN stepped in to help the people of Timor-Leste, who then voted in support of independence on August 30, 1999. Anti-independence Timorese militia began a scorched earth campaign. Australian military were sent to help the people, and Timor-Leste was finally recognized as an independent state on May 20, 2002. Since then, internal tension continued for several years, but Timor-Leste has been stabilizing.

Who are the political leaders of Timor-Leste?
President Taur Matan Ruak (formerly José Maria Vasconcelos)

Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao (formerly Jose Alexandre Gusmao)

What is the relationship between Australia and Timor-Leste?
At the beginning stages of Timor-Leste’s journey to independence from Indonesia in 1999, Australia stepped in to help with peacekeeping efforts, helping the new nation to stabilize. Since then, Timor-Leste and Australia have continued their relations, with Australia assisting financially and agreeing to provide military aid indefinitely.

Disputes between Australia and Timor-Leste over maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea, known as the Timor Gap, have been in negotiations for years. The two powers have signed three treaties regarding petroleum exploration, agreeing to postpone discussions on delimitations until 2057. The three treaties are the Timor Sea Treaty (2002), Sunrise International Unitization Agreement (2003), and the Treaty of Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (2006). They have agreed to share revenue from oil in the region.


Last Updated on 07 March 2014

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