East Timor


East Timor flagEast Timor <<tee MAWR>> is a small country in Southeast Asia. It is sometimes called Timor-Leste. It makes up the eastern side of the island of Timor. This island lies in the Timor Sea, about 300 miles (480 kilometers) north of Australia. Dili is East Timor’s capital and largest city. The country’s official name is the Democratic Republic of East Timor.

Portugal began trading in East Timor during the 1500’s and slowly took control of the region. After the Portuguese left in 1975, Indonesia took over East Timor. In 1999, the East Timorese voted for independence. That year, the United Nations (UN) began helping East Timor prepare for full independence. It became independent on May 20, 2002.

Although the East Timorese belong to a number of separate ethnic groups, most of the people are of Malay or Melanesian ancestry. Some are descendents of Portuguese settlers. Tetum and Portuguese are East Timor’s two official languages, but more than a dozen local languages are spoken. Bahasa Indonesia and English are also spoken.

East Timor mapEast Timor is a developing country. Agriculture is a leading economic activity. Coffee, corn, and rice are East Timor’s leading crops. Oil and natural gas are also important to the country’s economy.

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