Dili, East Timor – UN police returned control of a district to East Timorese police Thursday for the first time since bloody clashes threatened to plunge the country into civil war in 2006, the UN said.
The unrest, triggered by the desertion of 600 soldiers over claims of discrimination, forced 155,000 people or 15% of the population to flee their homes, and triggered the return of UN forces to the tiny country.
But three years later the UN peacekeeping mission said the conditions were stable enough for the National Police of Timor-Leste to start resuming their full responsibilities.
The first handover of control took place in Lautem district on the far east of the half-island state.
"UN police will remain in the district to provide advice and monitoring, particularly in the area of human rights protection," the UN said in a statement.
East Timorese Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao last month said the government was rebuilding confidence in the state.
"In only three years since the crisis, people have regained trust and confidence in each other and in state institutions, consolidated peace and stability through national dialogue and reconciliation initiatives," he said.
East Timor won formal independence from Indonesia in 2002 after a bloody 24- year occupation that killed as many as 200,000 people.