/** reg.easttimor: 3176.0 **/

** Topic: Escape: One activist tells how he fooled the militias into helping h **
** Written 12:41 AM Sep 10, 1999 by Joyo@aol.com in cdp:reg.easttimor **
Subject: Escape: One activist tells how he fooled the militias into helping him flee

The Guardian [UK] Friday September 10, 1999

'To survive I knew I had to get out'

Escape: One activist tells how he fooled the militias into helping him flee

John Aglionby in Kupang

When Ano Loy saw five Indonesian soldiers walking towards his home in Dili, East Timor, on Monday he was sure they were going to kill him. "They were carrying guns and cans of petrol. All the houses around mine were already empty so they could only have been coming to me."

Mr Loy, a senior member of East Timor's pro-independence movement, described his extraordinary escape to safety yesterday as he embarked on the final leg from West Timor - the adjoining territory to East Timor - to the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

For the previous two days - following the announcement by the United Nations of East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence from Indonesia - Mr Loy (not his real name) had seen the army and the pro-Jakarta militias systematically begin the destruction of Dili.

"They had already driven thousands of people from their homes and killed many," he said. "It was my turn now. My luck had run out."

The soldiers, dressed in combat uniform, bandannas made of Indonesia's red and white flag and wearing warpaint on their faces, did not open fire. Instead they gave Mr Loy, 48, an ultimatum.

"They said I had to leave, to go to the port or the police station, or else they would kill me and burn the house. Luckily they did not recognise me or else I am sure they would have killed me immediately."

To prove they meant business, the soldiers doused both the neighbouring houses in petrol and set them alight. By the time Mr Loy was ready to leave, his was the only house in the neighbourhood not on fire. He is convinced it is now a smouldering ruin.

Just as he, his wife and his children were about to leave, a young man ran into the house telling a terrible story. He had come from the port, where he and some pro-independence friends had been trying to leave on a ship. The women boarded, but the men were dragged away. Five were stabbed to death in front of him and their bodies dumped in the sea.

Mr Loy decided it would be a death sentence to take his family either to the already overcrowded port or to the police station teeming with more than 10,000 refugees.

"They would definitely have known me at both places and I had heard that families were being separated and did not want to risk not seeing my wife and children again."

So he took an even bigger risk. His family and some other friends asked to join people the militia were forcibly taking in trucks to the border.

"I had no choice. If I wanted to survive I knew I had to get out. And this was the only way to avoid the authorities.

"By the time we left there were 124 people in seven vehicles - five pick-ups, one truck and one Jeep. We were so squashed in but I knew it was our only hope. Almost everyone was crying and sobbing. They had no idea where they were being taken to."

The road to the border was packed with vehicles. "Many were not moving. They were just by the side of the road. Others were destroyed or burnt."

It took seven hours to reach the border, a journey that normally takes less than three. "The advantage of driving with the militia was that we had no problems with the road blocks. We were just waved through and no one bothered to look closely at us."

Mr Loy had disguised himself by brushing his hair differently and wearing a large pair of gold-rimmed glasses.

His abiding memory of the journey were the boasts of one militiaman. "He said he had counted 460 unburied bodies in Dili that morning and knew of many, many more. I will never forget the gleeful look on his face."

The scene at the border at Batugade was chaos. "But this helped us as the soldiers were so overwhelmed. Once again we were just waved through."

After another three hours the convoy stopped for the night in the town of Keva. "There were people everywhere, including many, many militiamen. They were all so proud of what they had done in East Timor; how many houses they had burnt, how many people they had killed for the sake of Indonesia."

That evening Mr Loy's wife told her husband he should go on alone. "She said it was more important for me to get to Jakarta to tell [pro-independence leader Jose] "Xanana" Gusmao what was happening. It was such a noble gesture. I am determined to return to Keva to save her."

Getting off the island was no easy task. "The following day, Tuesday, I got on a truck going to Kupang. There were two road blocks on the way but we went straight through." In Kupang, he hid with friends until a church contact was able to get him one of the few remaining plane tickets out.

After changing into a batik shirt, Mr Loy aroused no suspicion from the swarm of intelligence agents at Kupang airport. Last night he was safe in Jakarta.

** End of text from cdp:reg.easttimor **