Ewok Army

10.04.07

Categorie: Axe in East Timor, East Timor |

“They’ll come at you with slingshots, machetes, sticks … ”

That’s a young Australian soldier describing the revenge-minded gang members, often in the pay of corrupt political parties, who comprise one of the greatest threats to stability in troubled, oil-rich East Timor.

Little, brown, usually friendly but highly adaptive and fearless in large numbers, Timorese thugs are a lot like Ewoks. (My comparison, not the Aussies’.) Like the vicious spacebears from Endor that helped defeat the Galactic Empire, they improvise deadly weapons from local materials. There are the rebar arrows I described in a previous post. Then there are crude cutlasses, dart guns and javelins – any of which could kill you, especially when wielded by an angry, 500-strong mob, as was the case recently when a New Zealand squad found itself swarmed by warring gang members. Shots were fired in that case, and the New Zealanders fortunately escaped.

On Tuesday I had lunch with some fellows from the Australian-New Zealand battlegroup, and they demonstrated some of these native weapons, using slingshots to shoot those rebar arrows into a wooden wall, each with a resounding THUNK. But my favorite Ewok weapon was a rifle-shaped block of wood with a “chamber” to hold a slim metal dart – and a spring mechanism made from tire rubber. Pull the trigger, release a catch, and the rubber propels the dart through the chamber like a hybrid of a crossbow and a rifle. Does it have the accuracy and range of a firearm? No. But this is a melee weapon, for use in crowded, close-range fights. This is Defense Technology at its most International … and most basic.

It could be worse. There are few guns in Timor and the local bad guys haven’t really figured out how to make roadside bombs … yet. Or how to commandeer Imperial Walkers. But like Ewoks, they can still kill you if they get close enough.

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4 Responses to “Ewok Army”

  1. Pete says:

    Dwarf wookies or no – dirty/rusty projectiles from homemade guns/slingshots can sometimes be worse than standard “clean” bullets due to unpredictable poisoning and infection. So the troops/cops lot might not be a happy one soon.

  2. [...] “Timor-Leste doesn’t reflect well on the international community,” commented Michael Cognato of Passport in response to the election. I don’t quite agree. I think Timor has been a relatively successful peace-keeping operation that reflects well on Australia and New Zealand. What it shows the failure of is the idea of nation-building. I mean, there hasn’t been any effective insurgency against the international forces. Its a tiny country with just a few hundred thousand people, and it has offshore oil reserves, tourism potential, sandalwood and “fair-trade” coffee exports. And yet it is desperately poor and unstable, plagued by armed rebels and youth gangs. The only reason it has no major insurgency or war is because gangsters/rebels can’t afford guns, and have few cars, cellphones and so on – its difficult for them to mobilise large numbers, and practically impossible for them to take on the Anzac troops (except with rebar slingshot archery). [...]

  3. farnsworth says:

    Your comparison of the Timorese to Ewoks is the most offensive racial caricature I’ve heard in a while.

  4. NVC says:

    Dear all,
    my country, East Timor, is far way better than some others in the rest of the world. Yes, it’s true that there’s UN mission here however there’s no significant threat made by any criminal group to UN staff…and that UN staff are much safer to be in Timor-Leste than other countries….Receiving US$3000.00/month as a UN staff in Afghanistan or Iraq would be no different than bartering your life with money. Please be just to judge Timor-Leste. Have a good day!

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