When I came here, I thought I would be spending a relatively quiet and perhaps career-stunting period but I am also no great fan of living in your typical western suburbia.
Dili is now turning into a military town and I presume it is going to be like this for quite some time. I guess there will be a shift in the economy with a few more goods and services directed to the 100s of troops who will be around the place.
For the moment, I believe the troops are operating “dry” but one day, things will be more normal and they will have down-time just like the rest of us.
The international intervention force (or whatever it is called – lets call it IIF) has moved its base to the Dili dock area near the Hotel Timor. The many ITDs (I am told internally displaced persons is the correct term, not refugees) who were at the docks have now been moved out. There is a park area across the road and open space on the seafront to the west, stretching down to the Motael church. It remains to be seen just how many will stay in this area and for how long.
The huge numbers of ITDs that lined the access road to the airport have dissipated but it is assumed that the move of the IIF headquarters away from the airport implied a lower level of security.
There is no doubt that food supply is a problem, even for expats. The expat supermarkets have been closed for nearly a week except for Cool Storage near the ANZ Bank. I believe Lita Store and Leader Supermarket are operating by appointment only.
The ANZ Bank opened on Wednesday.
As far as my own personal safety is concerned, I had a little moment on Saturday but otherwise have remained clear of any problems. It really depends where you live and the vast majority of expats live slightly apart from the local community (ie hotels, guest-houses, long-term serviced accommodation and the like).
As far as I can tell, expats are NOT a target at all. The press have been inserting themselves quite close to action at times and I don’t believe they have encountered any trouble. But I mean if I were a thug and arsonist, I might get a little annoyed if a camera crew got in the way and I might want want to give them a slap.
A number of expats live amongst the locals and those expats run the risk of collateral damage if a particular area is targetted. Or perhaps, be seen to be taking sides.
Some areas of town have remained untouched. I do not fully understand but I think some areas have very strong local communities and some “vigilante” groups have been strong enough to deter roaming gangs. I was told the Comorro area had such a strong group but it seems that has broken over the last few days.
I have a friend who has operated as per normal, driving between home and work each day without issue apart from one day when he got inquisitive and decided to have a look at Comorro Road. He encountered a small group of machete boys. He stopped, preparing himself to turn around but the lads grinned and waved him through with smiles on their faces. I doubt he will do it again, but I believe that is the current feel out there. Of course, that could all change if there is an incident with any of the troops but I believe they are very well-disciplined.
I have also spoken to an expat who has been here a while and he says he has had no problems at all and is not worried. He has driven past marauding gangs who have waved and smiled at him while they have been torching houses.