by David Johnson
A Portuguese colony for 400 years, East Timor was invaded by neighboring Indonesia in 1975, nine days after it declared itself an independent nation. Since then, the East Timorese have agitated for independence. Indonesia brutally repressed the independence movement and more than 200,000 died of starvation, disease, and war. After 25 years of intransigence, Indonesia permitted a referendum on independence. On August 30, 1999, nearly 79% of the East Timorese electorate opted for independence.
In the aftermath of the vote, by pro-Indonesian militia and Indonesian soldiers slaughtered thousands. Some one-third of the population became refugees. The U.N. sent a peacekeeping force to East Timor, and governed the territory for nearly three years. On May 20, 2002, East Timor achieved nationhood.
Consisting of some 200 islands scattered across the Pacific Ocean, more than 500 miles southeast of the Philippines, the Republic of Palau became fully independent on October 1, 1994. From 1947 until 1992, Palau had been a United Nations trusteeship administered by the United States. In 1992, Palau and the U.S. signed a compact of free association. The agreement requires the U.S. to provide economic aid in exchange for keeping military bases in Palau. Between 18,000 and 19,000 people live in the Republic of Palau.