Timor was actively involved in Southeast Asian trading networks for centuries and by the 14th century exported aromatic sandalwood, slaves, honey, and wax. A number of local chiefdoms ruled the island in the early 16th century when Portuguese traders arrived, chiefly attracted by the relative abundance of sandalwood on Timor; by mid century, the Portuguese had colonized the island. Skirmishing with the Dutch in the region eventually resulted in an 1859 treaty in which Portugal ceded the western portion of the island. Imperial Japan occupied Portuguese Timor from 1942 to 1945, but Portugal resumed colonial authority after the Japanese defeat in World War II. East Timor declared itself independent from Portugal on 28 November 1975 and was invaded and occupied by Indonesian forces nine days later. It was incorporated into Indonesia in July 1976 as the province of Timor Timur (East Timor). An unsuccessful campaign of pacification followed over the next two decades, during which an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 people died. In an August 1999 UN-supervised popular referendum, an overwhelming majority of the people of Timor-Leste voted for independence from Indonesia. However, in the next three weeks, anti-independence Timorese militias - organized and supported by the Indonesian military - commenced a large-scale, scorched-earth campaign of retribution. The militias killed approximately 1,400 Timorese and forced 300,000 people into western Timor as refugees. Most of the country's infrastructure, including homes, irrigation systems, water supply systems, and schools, and nearly all of the country's electrical grid were destroyed. On 20 September 1999, Australian-led peacekeeping troops deployed to the country and brought the violence to an end. On 20 May 2002, Timor-Leste was internationally recognized as an independent state. In 2006, internal tensions threatened the new nation's security when a military strike led to violence and a breakdown of law and order. At Dili's request, an Australian-led International Stabilization Force (ISF) deployed to Timor-Leste, and the UN Security Council established the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), which included an authorized police presence of over 1,600 personnel. The ISF and UNMIT restored stability, allowing for presidential and parliamentary elections in 2007 in a largely peaceful atmosphere. In February 2008, a rebel group staged an unsuccessful attack against the president and prime minister. The ringleader was killed in the attack, and most of the rebels surrendered in April 2008. Since the attack, the government has enjoyed one of its longest periods of post-independence stability, including successful 2012 elections for both the parliament and president and a successful transition of power in February 2015. In late 2012, the UN Security Council ended its peacekeeping mission in Timor-Leste and both the ISF and UNMIT departed the country. Early parliamentary elections in the spring of 2017 finally produced a majority government after months of impasse. Currently, the government is a coalition of three parties and the president is a member of the opposition party. In 2018 and 2019, this configuration stymied nominations for key ministerial positions and slowed progress on certain policy issues.



8.50° S, 125. 55° E
Southeastern Asia, northwest of Australia in the Lesser Sunda Islands at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago; note - Timor-Leste includes the eastern half of the island of Timor, the Oecussi (Ambeno) region on the northwest portion of the island of Timor, and the islands of Pulau Atauro and Pulau Jaco


14,874 sq km
14,874 sq km
0 sq km

land boundaries

253 km


706 km


tropical; hot, humid; distinct rainy and dry seasons




lowest point
Timor Sea, Savu Sea, and Banda Sea
highest point
Foho Tatamailau

natural resources

  • gold
  • petroleum
  • natural gas
  • manganese
  • marble

land use

arable land
10.1 %
permanent crops
4.9 %
permanent pasture
10.1 %
49.1 %
25.8 %

population distribution

most of the population concentrated in the western third of the country, particularly around Dili



  • 1,383,723
  • 155
    global rank


  • Timorese
  • Timorese

ethnic groups

  • Austronesian
  • Melanesian-Papuan
  • small Chinese minority


  • Tetun Prasa
  • Mambai
  • Makasai
  • Tetun Terik
  • Baikenu
  • Kemak
  • Bunak
  • Tokodede
  • Fataluku
  • Waima'a
  • Galoli
  • Naueti
  • Idate
  • Midiki
  • other


Roman Catholic
97.6 %
2 %
0.2 %
0.2 %

birth rate

  • 32
    per 1,000 population
  • 27
    global rank

death rate

  • 5.7
    per 1,000 population
  • 178
    global rank

urban population

31.3 %

major urban areas

  • Dili
    pop. 281,000

life expectancy

  • 69.3
    total population
  • 170
    global rank

adult obesity rate

  • 3.8%
    percent of adults
  • 190
    global rank


country name


  • Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
    long form
  • Timor-Leste
    short form


  • Republika Demokratika Timor Lorosa'e [Tetum]; Republica Democratica de Timor-Leste [Portuguese]
    long form
  • Timor Lorosa'e [Tetum]; Timor-Leste [Portuguese]
    short form

government type

semi-presidential republic


8.35 S, 125.36 E


national holidays

  • Restoration of Independence Day
    20 May
  • Proclamation of Independence Day
    28 November

legal system

civil law system based on the Portuguese model; note - penal and civil law codes to replace the Indonesian codes were passed by Parliament and promulgated in 2009 and 2011, respectively

age of suffrage


flag description

red with a black isosceles triangle (based on the hoist side) superimposed on a slightly longer yellow arrowhead that extends to the center of the flag; a white star - pointing to the upper hoist-side corner of the flag - is in the center of the black triangle; yellow denotes the colonialism in Timor-Leste's past, black represents the obscurantism that needs to be overcome, red stands for the national liberation struggle; the white star symbolizes peace and serves as a guiding light

national colors

  • red
  • yellow
  • black
  • white

national anthem

"Patria" (Fatherland)



Since independence in 1999, Timor-Leste has faced great challenges in rebuilding its infrastructure, strengthening the civil administration, and generating jobs for young people entering the work force. The development of offshore oil and gas resources has greatly supplemented government revenues. This technology-intensive industry, however, has done little to create jobs in part because there are no production facilities in Timor-Leste. Gas is currently piped to Australia for processing, but Timor-Leste has expressed interest in developing a domestic processing capability. In June 2005, the National Parliament unanimously approved the creation of the Timor-Leste Petroleum Fund to serve as a repository for all petroleum revenues and to preserve the value of Timor-Leste's petroleum wealth for future generations. The Fund held assets of $16 billion, as of mid-2016. Oil accounts for over 90% of government revenues, and the drop in the price of oil in 2014-16 has led to concerns about the long-term sustainability of government spending. Timor-Leste compensated for the decline in price by exporting more oil. The Ministry of Finance maintains that the Petroleum Fund is sufficient to sustain government operations for the foreseeable future. Annual government budget expenditures increased markedly between 2009 and 2012 but dropped significantly through 2016. Historically, the government failed to spend as much as its budget allowed. The government has focused significant resources on basic infrastructure, including electricity and roads, but limited experience in procurement and infrastructure building has hampered these projects. The underlying economic policy challenge the country faces remains how best to use oil-and-gas wealth to lift the non-oil economy onto a higher growth path and to reduce poverty.


7,426,000,000 USD

agriculture products

  • coffee
  • rice
  • corn
  • cassava
  • manioc
  • tapioca
  • sweet potatoes
  • soybeans
  • cabbage
  • mangoes
  • bananas
  • vanilla

poverty level



  • 300,000,000
    revenue (USD)
  • 2,400,000,000
    expenditures (USD)



    fixed lines

  • 2,206
    total subscriptions
  • 213
    global rank

    mobile cellular

  • 1,468,495
    total subscriptions
  • 156
    global rank

broadcast media

7 TV stations (3 nationwide satellite coverage; 2 terrestrial coverage, mostly in Dili; 2 cable) and 21 radio stations (3 nationwide coverage) (2019)


country code


  • 363,398
  • 27.49
    % of population
  • 162
    global rank


electricity access



air transport


  • 6
  • 2


6,040 km
total length



expenditures here

service age