Guarding the border markers between Indonesia and Timor Leste

Guarding the border markers between Indonesia and Timor Leste

Personnels of the Indonesian-Timor Leste Border Security Task Force East Sector Battalion 742/SWY are on a patrol at the boundary markers in the border. ANTARA/HO-Border Security Task Force Indonesia-Timor Leste-rst)

The problem that we may face here is that we do not have the authority to fix the markers, and so far, there has been no repair of our border markers
Leo and Jito, two Silawan villagers, spoke of their lack of clarity regarding their village's cross-border territory with Timor Leste. "We do not know what it looks like and where the boundaries between Indonesia and Timor Leste lay. Only the Indonesian National Defense Force (TNI) is aware of it, as its personnel are always on patrols in the border area," the villagers said during an afternoon conversation around the Motaain Cross-Border Post (PLBN), Belu District, East Nusa Tenggara, which is a border region across Timor Leste.

The two young residents were riddled with doubts over the cross-border territory with Timor Leste since the land border area between Indonesia and Timor Leste stretches as far as 230 kilometers (km) through three districts: Belu, along 115 km; North Central Timor, 104.5 km; and Kupang District, 10.5 km.

The two countries are also surrounded by sea borders in the districts of Alor, Kupang, North Central Timor, Belu, and Rote Ndao.

Along the border area of ​​the two countries are three types of borders, specifically the PBN Land Characteristics. This type of border has an image of the flags of Indonesia and Timor Leste. This flag indicates that visitors will enter the territory of the neighboring country.

This national border marks as a sign of the border between Indonesia and Timor Leste.

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The Common Border Datum Reference Frame (CBDRF) and Border Sign Post (BSP) are two other ways of delineating and demarcating the land borders.

Commander of the Indonesian-RDTL Border Security Task Force in the East Sector Battalion 742/SWY Lieutenant Colonel Inf. Bayu Sigit Dwi Untoro stated that currently, several people, especially youngsters living along the Indonesia-Timor Leste border, were unaware of the exact position of the boundary markers between the two countries.

"Many of our people do not know where the border marker is or what the border marker is. I have asked some young people, and they said that they had no idea, except for smugglers, because they often cross the border," he noted.

Untoro spoke of having constantly reminded residents in border areas to have knowledge of the existence of border markers and their type since the TNI always came to patrol, but the people still remained at the border.

"I always tell the people around the security posts that the personnel of our soldiers may change. One day, we will leave and another one comes, but the people will stay permanently on the border," he affirmed.

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554 flags

Colonel Untoro noted that on August 17, 2021, the Indonesian-RDTL Border Security Task Force in the East Sector Battalion 742/SWY had installed 554 flags at 554 boundary markers, which was also an Independence Day gift to the country.

The flag installation at 554 boundary markers in the Belu Regency area was conducted in collaboration with the community in villages in the border area.

"We worked along with the community. Officers at each post worked with the community around the post to place flags on the border in their respective regional posts," he remarked.

The effort made by the TNI aims to maintain the position of the border in addition to informing the public about the border between Indonesia and Timor Leste.

"Hence, we hope that the public would know about Indonesia's boundary. This is the border between Indonesia and Timor Leste," he affirmed.

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Currently, dozens of national border markers between Indonesia and Timor Leste, which are located along the border area of ​​Belu District, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), have been lost due to natural factors. In addition, dozens of others were almost lost after being eroded by floods during the rainy season.

"We have 554 markers in Belu District, with 68 markers missing, and 36 markers that are almost disappearing. The dry season is currently being experienced, but later, in December 2021, it will start to rain," Colonel Untoro pointed out.

During the rainy season, the country's border markers are prone to flooding owing to land erosion and are more likely to be flooded, while some parts of it will be lost.

"The problem that we may face here is that we do not have the authority to fix the markers, and so far, there has been no repair of our border markers. We are worried that the border markers will be lost," he remarked.

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If the markers in the border area disappeared, Untoro expressed concerns over the danger and safety threat at the border since he admitted to being uncertain about the condition in future.

"Hence, this is indeed due to natural factors. So far, no efforts from either Indonesia or Timor Leste were made to fix the damaged markers,” he emphasized.

However, the Indonesia-Timor Leste Border Security Task Force continues to conduct routine patrols to check the markers in the border area.

Patrols are conducted according to the number of markers that are included in the duties and responsibilities of each security post, under the command of a Topographical Officer.

This patrol is a routine program conducted every two months by postal personnel in rotation, but in a special situation, such as a natural disaster, the patrols will be conducted immediately at the location.

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The 2003 Indonesian Military Academy alumnus is optimistic that Indonesia would not lose another border marker either due to natural causes or human errors. This is since extensive efforts from both nations are needed for making and repairing the markers that takes a long time.

Head of the Regional Border Agency (BPPD) of NTT Province Petrus Seran Tahuk spoke of having reported the problem of these border markers to the National Border Agency (BNPP).

The BNPP has also sent a team to NTT to conduct field checks as well as coordinate with the Border Security Task Force, but, so far, no action was taken.

The duties and responsibilities of TNI soldiers at the frontline of the Indonesia-Timor Leste border are indeed not easy owing to the topography and the long border lines spanning hundreds of kilometers.

However, for a TNI soldier, there is no reason to complain. They are required to conduct routine patrols on foot for tens of kilometers, along rivers, bushes, and even jungles, to ensure that the border markers remain safe.

Those sacrifices made by TNI soldiers at Indonesia’s forefront aim to ensure that other nations do not pose a threat or danger to the country in any way.

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