The smiles of these Indonesian soldiers inside East Timor in late 1975 belie their deadly mission. Under orders from their President (Suharto) and military superiors, they were part of the first wave of Indonesian forces launched to stifle the establishment of an independent East Timor. Many such soldiers didn’t return home. Countless numbers of Timorese died or were brutalised at their hands.
Photographs of the Indonesian military presence inside Timor in the first years of the invasion are rare. This image is one of 52 pictures posted on Facebook in mid-2009 by an East Timorese.
The images, while generally of low quality, are a valuable addition to the pictorial record of the early occupation years. Along with photographs of Indonesian troops, equipment and some senior Indonesian officers, there are also some rare images of UDT/Apodeti forces and key personalities – presumably in the 1975 post-civil war period.
To make all these images more visible outside the Facebook community, I have created a public album – Indonesian Invasion 1975.
Where do they come from?
Our source got the digital versions from friends at an East Timorese NGO but suspects they may also not know about the origins of the set.
A small subset (11) of these images does appear on the website of the Timorese Resistance Archive & Museum (AMRT).
In addition to some more detailed captions on content of the images, AMRT attributes their origin to the collection of Mario Carrascalao (formerly Indonesian-appointed governor of Timor-Timur and now vice prime-minister of Timor-Leste). Given the varied nature of the images, it is probable Sr. Carrascalao was a collector rather than the original photographer.
It is unclear whether AMRT holds copies of all 52 images shown here, or just the ones displayed on its website (see images among those under the heading “09.01. Invasão” ).
Some of the images appear to be professionally composed. Perhaps they were originally taken by Indonesian reporters like Hendro Subroto who were ’embedded’ with Indonesian forces before and after the invasion.
How you can help
A key aim of the Timor Archives project is to connect the creators/photographers to images swirling around the internet, to get more information on them and to establish any copyright claims. Timor Archives readers can help us establish more data about these images. The obvious questions are:
- Who took the photographs?
- When and where were they taken?
- Can we identify faces and locations in some of the images?
- Who holds original or better copies?
- Does anyone claim legal copyright?
If you can help with answers to any of these questions, please send comments through the Leave a reply/comment link immediately below or add comments to individual images in the Album.
Note on captions: Many image captions in the album may need correction. They are reproduced from the Facebook album as found and supplemented with AMRT captions where available. Comments in [square brackets] are mine.