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Thai general appointed head of UN peacekeeping force in East Timor

Thai general appointed head of UN peacekeeping force in East Timor

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today announced the appointment of a senior military officer from Thailand as the next commander of United Nations peacekeepers in East Timor.

Lt. Gen. Winai Phattiyakul, currently the Director of Directorate of the Joint Intelligence, Supreme Command Headquarters of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, will succeed Lt. Gen. Boonsrang Niumpradit as the head of the military component of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). Lt. Gen. Boonsrang Niumpradit is set to leave the post at the end of this month.

Meanwhile, preparations continued for East Timor's first-ever democratic elections later this month as more than 8,000 East Timorese turned out for a five-hour "Sing for Peace, Sing for Democracy, Sing for Timor" event yesterday evening at the Dili sports stadium.

Twelve East Timorese bands performed songs focusing on nation building, democracy and peace. Between numbers, the performers elaborated on these themes, many connecting East Timor's journey toward independence and construction of democracy to their painful history. A prominent Timorese TV personality then spoke more formally about the upcoming election, the Constituent Assembly that will result, and the relationship between citizens and the State in a democracy.

Teams from the UN-supported National Office for Civic Education and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) also distributed leaflets on the procedures for the 30 August vote, the remaining steps in the transition to independence, and other civic education matters.

According to the IEC, more than 900 national and international observers have been accredited to the 30 August elections. The figure includes 252 international electoral observers from 40 countries, as well as 719 Timorese electoral observers from 18 organizations covering all of East Timor's districts.

The IEC also announced that all polling centres for the elections have been identified and cleared for security, and that the voter roll and ballot papers will be arriving in Dili this week. All 5,000 polling staff have been recruited and provisions for their training are ready.

The IEC's Chief Electoral Officer, Carlos Valenzuela, said that the polling kits, including ballot boxes, indelible ink and seals for the ballot boxes, have already been assembled in Dili and are now being distributed to the districts. Other sensitive polling materials, consisting mostly of ballot papers and polling forms, will soon arrive in the districts where they will be kept in secure storage areas.