The Portuguese began to trade with the island of Timor in the early 16th century and colonized it in mid-century. 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.



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

Geographic coordinates

8 50 S, 125 55 E

Map references

Southeast Asia


total: 14,874 sq km
land: 14,874 sq km
water: 0 sq km

Area - comparative

slightly larger than Connecticut

Land boundaries

total: 253 km
border countries (1): Indonesia 253 km


706 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm


tropical; hot, humid; distinct rainy and dry seasons




mean elevation: NA
elevation extremes: lowest point: Timor Sea, Savu Sea, and Banda Sea 0 m
highest point: Foho Tatamailau 2,963 m

Natural resources

gold, petroleum, natural gas, manganese, marble

Land use

agricultural land: 25.1%
arable land 10.1%; permanent crops 4.9%; permanent pasture 10.1%
forest: 49.1%
other: 25.8% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

350 sq km (2012)

Natural hazards

floods and landslides are common; earthquakes; tsunamis; tropical cyclones

Environment - current issues

widespread use of slash and burn agriculture has led to deforestation and soil erosion

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

Timor comes from the Malay word for "east"; the island of Timor is part of the Malay Archipelago and is the largest and easternmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands

People and Society

Population growth rate

2.39% (2016 est.)


1,261,072 (July 2016 est.)


noun: Timorese
adjective: Timorese

Ethnic groups

Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian), Papuan, small Chinese minority


Tetum (official), Portuguese (official), Indonesian, English
note: there are about 16 indigenous languages; Tetum, Galole, Mambae, and Kemak are spoken by a significant portion of the population


Roman Catholic 96.9%, Protestant/Evangelical 2.2%, Muslim 0.3%, other 0.6% (2005)

Age structure

0-14 years: 41.43% (male 268,578/female 253,897)
15-24 years: 20.11% (male 128,678/female 124,870)
25-54 years: 29.79% (male 180,750/female 194,916)
55-64 years: 4.88% (male 31,349/female 30,194)
65 years and over: 3.79% (male 22,852/female 24,988) (2016 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 92.3%
youth dependency ratio: 81.5%
elderly dependency ratio: 10.7%
potential support ratio: 9.3% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 18.8 years
male: 18.2 years
female: 19.4 years (2016 est.)

Birth rate

33.8 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Death rate

6 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Net migration rate

-3.9 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 est.)


urban population: 32.8% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 3.75% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

DILI (capital) 228,000 (2014)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.93 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.91 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

Child labor - children ages 5-14

total number: 10,510
percentage: 4% (2002 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

215 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 36.3 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 39.2 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 33.2 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 68.1 years
male: 66.5 years
female: 69.7 years (2016 est.)

Total fertility rate

4.9 children born/woman (2016 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

22.3% (2009/10)

Health expenditures

1.5% of GDP (2014)

Physicians density

0.07 physicians/1,000 population (2011)

Hospital bed density

5.9 beds/1,000 population (2010)

Drinking water source

urban: 95.2% of population
rural: 60.5% of population
total: 71.9% of population
urban: 4.8% of population
rural: 39.5% of population
total: 28.1% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

urban: 69% of population
rural: 26.8% of population
total: 40.6% of population
urban: 31% of population
rural: 73.2% of population
total: 59.4% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate


HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS


HIV/AIDS - deaths


Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria (2016)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

1.8% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

37.7% (2013)

Education expenditures

7.9% of GDP (2014)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 67.5%
male: 71.5%
female: 63.4% (2015 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 13 years
male: 14 years
female: 13 years (2010)

Mother's mean age at first birth

note: median age at first birth among women 25-29 (2009/10 est.)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 14.8%
male: 10.4%
female: 22.7% (2010 est.)


Country name

conventional long form: Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
conventional short form: Timor-Leste
note: pronounced TEE-mor LESS-tay
local long form: Republika Demokratika Timor Lorosa'e [Tetum]; Republica Democratica de Timor-Leste [Portuguese]
local short form: Timor Lorosa'e [Tetum]; Timor-Leste [Portuguese]
former: East Timor, Portuguese Timor
etymology: "timor" derives from the Indonesian and Malay word "timur" meaning "east"; "leste" is the Portuguese word for "east", so "Timor-Leste" literally means "Eastern-East"; the local [Tetum] name "Timor Lorosa'e" translates as "East Rising Sun"

Government type

semi-presidential republic


name: Dili
geographic coordinates: 8 35 S, 125 36 E
time difference: UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

13 administrative districts; Aileu, Ainaro, Baucau, Bobonaro (Maliana), Cova-Lima (Suai), Dili, Ermera (Gleno), Lautem (Los Palos), Liquica, Manatuto, Manufahi (Same), Oecussi (Ambeno), Viqueque
note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers (exceptions have the administrative center name following in parentheses)


20 May 2002 (from Indonesia); note - 28 November 1975 was the date independence was proclaimed from Portugal; 20 May 2002 was the date of international recognition of Timor-Leste's independence from Indonesia

National holiday

Restoration of Independence Day, 20 May (2002); Proclamation of Independence Day, 28 November (1975)


drafted 2001, approved 22 March 2002, entered into force 20 May 2002 (2016)


17 years of age; universal

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

International law organization participation

accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction


citizenship by birth: no
citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Timor-Leste
dual citizenship recognized: no
residency requirement for naturalization: 10 years

Executive branch

chief of state: President Taur Matan RUAK, aka Jose Maria de VASCONCELOS (since 20 May 2012); note - the president plays a largely symbolic role but is the commander in chief of the military and is able to veto legislation, dissolve parliament, and call national elections
head of government: Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana GUSMAO - formerly Jose Alexandre GUSMAO (since 8 August 2007); Vice Prime Minister Fernando "Lasama" de ARAUJO (since 8 August 2012)
cabinet: Council of Ministers proposed by the prime minister and appointed by the president
elections/appointments: president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 17 March 2012 with a runoff on 16 April 2012; following parliamentary elections, the president appoints the leader of the majority party or majority coalition as the prime minister
election results: Taur Matan RUAK elected president in runoff; percent of vote - Taur Matan RUAK (independent) 61.2%, Francisco GUTTERES (Frenti-Mudanca) 38.8%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral National Parliament (65 seats; members directly elected in a single nationwide constituency by proportional representation vote to serve 5-year terms)
elections: elections were held on 7 July 2012 (next to be held in July 2017)
election results: percent of vote by party - CNRT 36%, FRETILIN 30%, PD 10%, Frenti-Mudanca 3%, others 21%; seats by party - CNRT 30, FRETILIN 25, PD 8, Frenti-Mudanca 2

National symbol(s)

Mount Ramelau; national colors: red, yellow, black, white

Political pressure groups and leaders


Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court of Justice (consists of the court president and NA judges)
judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court president appointed by the president of the republic from among the other court judges to serve a 4-year term; other Supreme Court judges appointed - 1 by the Parliament and the others by the Supreme Council for the Judiciary, a body presided by the Supreme Court president and includes mostly presidential and parliamentary appointees; other Supreme Court judges appointed for life
subordinate courts: Court of Appeal; High Administrative, Tax, and Audit Court; district courts; magistrates' courts; military courts
note: the UN Justice System Programme, launched in 2003 in 4 phases through 2018, is helping strengthen the country's justice system; the Programme is aligned with the country's long-range Justice Sector Strategic Plan, which includes legal reform

Political parties and leaders

Democratic Party or PD [Fernando "Lasama" de ARAUJO]
Frenti-Mudanca [Jose Luis GUTERRES]
National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction or CNRT [Kay Rala Xanana GUSMAO]
Revolutionary Front of Independent Timor-Leste or FRETILIN [Mari ALKATIRI]
(only parties in Parliament are listed)

International organization participation

ACP, ADB, AOSIS, ARF, ASEAN (observer), CPLP, EITI (compliant country), FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ITU, MIGA, NAM, OPCW, PIF (observer), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, Union Latina, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WMO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Domingos Sarmento ALVES (since 21 May 2014)
chancery: 4201 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 504, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 966-3202
FAX: [1] (202) 966-3205

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Karen STANTON (since 16 January 2015)
embassy: Avenida de Portugal, Praia dos Coqueiros, Dili
mailing address: US Department of State, 8250 Dili Place, Washington, DC 20521-8250
telephone: (670) 332-4684
FAX: (670) 331-3206

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 anthem

name: "Patria" (Fatherland)
lyrics/music: Fransisco Borja DA COSTA/Afonso DE ARAUJO
note: adopted 2002; the song was first used as an anthem when Timor-Leste declared its independence from Portugal in 1975; the lyricist, Fransisco Borja DA COSTA, was killed in the Indonesian invasion just days after independence was declared


Industrial production growth rate

-5% (2016 est.)

Economy - overview

Since gaining 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 reso

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

Annual government budget expenditures increased markedly between 2009 and 2012 but dropped significantly in 2013-16. Historically, the government failed to spend as much as its budget allowed. The government has focused significant resources on basic infr

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$4.975 billion (2016 est.)
$4.738 billion (2015 est.)
$4.545 billion (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$2.501 billion (2015 est.)
note: non-oil GDP

GDP - real growth rate

5% (2016 est.)
4.3% (2015 est.)
5.9% (2014 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP)

$4,200 (2016 est.)
$4,100 (2015 est.)
$4,000 (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 43%
government consumption: 27.2%
investment in fixed capital: 17.5%
investment in inventories: 0%
exports of goods and services: 70.8%
imports of goods and services: -58.5% (2016 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 7.5%
industry: 68%
services: 24.4% (2016 est.)

Agriculture - products

coffee, rice, corn, cassava (manioc, tapioca), sweet potatoes, soybeans, cabbage, mangoes, bananas, vanilla


printing, soap manufacturing, handicrafts, woven cloth

Labor force

259,800 (2013 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 64%
industry: 10%
services: 26% (2010)

Unemployment rate

11% (2013 est.)
18.4% (2010 est.)

Population below poverty line

37% (2011 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 4%
highest 10%: 27% (2007)

Distribution of family income - Gini index

31.9 (2007 est.)
38 (2002 est.)


revenues: $300 million
expenditures: $2.8 billion (2016 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

12% of GDP (2016 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-100% of GDP (2016 est.)

Fiscal year

calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

-0.8% (2016 est.)
0.6% (2015 est.)

Commercial bank prime lending rate

13.5% (31 December 2016 est.)
13.5% (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of narrow money

$456.9 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$397.7 million (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of broad money

$677.8 million (31 December 2015 est.)
$599.8 million (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of domestic credit

$-200 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$-127 million (31 December 2015 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares


Current account balance

-$248 million (2016 est.)
$239 million (2015 est.)


$18 million (2015 est.)
$18 million (2015 est.)

Exports - commodities

oil, coffee, sandalwood, marble
note: potential for vanilla exports


$647.7 million (2015 est.)
$647.7 million (2015 est.)

Imports - commodities

food, gasoline, kerosene, machinery

Debt - external

$311.5 million (31 December 2014 est.)
$687 million (31 December 2013 est.)

Exchange rates

the US dollar is used


Electricity - access

population without electricity: 744,032
electrification - total population: 42%
electrification - urban areas: 78%
electrification - rural areas: 27% (2012)

Electricity - production

349.4 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - consumption

125.3 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - exports

0 kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - imports

0 kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity

NA kW (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production

67,150 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil - exports

79,260 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - imports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves

0 bbl (1 January 2016 es)

Refined petroleum products - production

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption

3,100 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports

3,055 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Natural gas - production

0 cu m (2012 est.)

Natural gas - consumption

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports

6.45 billion cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves

200 billion cu m (1 January 2006 es)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy

500,000 Mt (2013 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 2,720
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: less than 1 (July 2015 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular

total: 1.377 million
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 112 (July 2015 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: rudimentary service in urban and some rural areas, which is expanding with the entrance of new competitors
domestic: system suffered significant damage during the violence associated with independence; limited fixed-line services; mobile-cellular services have been expanding and are now available in urban and most rural areas
international: country code - 670; international service is available (2015)

Broadcast media

1 public TV broadcast station broadcasting nationally and 1 public radio broadcaster with stations in each of the 13 administrative districts; 1 commercial TV broadcast station, 3 commercial radio stations, and roughly 20 community radio stations (2012)

Internet country code


Internet users

total: 165,000
percent of population: 13.4% (July 2015 est.)


Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

4W (2016)


6 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 2
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 2 (2013)


8 (2013)


total: 6,040 km
paved: 2,600 km
unpaved: 3,440 km (2005)

Merchant marine

total: 1
by type: passenger/cargo 1 (2010)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Dili


Military branches

Timor-Leste Defense Force (Falintil-Forcas de Defesa de Timor-L'este, Falintil (F-FDTL)): Army, Navy (Armada) (2013)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for voluntary military service; 18-month service obligation; no conscription but, as of May 2013, introduction of conscription was under discussion (2013)

Military expenditures

1.5% of GDP (2014)
1.8% of GDP (2013)
2.92% of GDP (2012)
2.6% of GDP (2011)
2.92% of GDP (2010)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

three stretches of land borders with Timor-Leste have yet to be delimited, two of which are in the Oecussi exclave area, and no maritime or Economic Exclusion Zone boundaries have been established between the countries; maritime boundaries with Indonesia remain unresolved; in 2007, Australia and Timor-Leste signed a 50-year development zone and revenue sharing agreement in lieu of a maritime boundary

Trafficking in persons

current situation: Timor Leste is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; Timorese women and girls from rural areas are lured to the capital with promises of legitimate jobs or education prospects and are then forced into prostitution or domestic servitude, and other women and girls may be sent to Indonesia for domestic servitude; Timorese family members force children into bonded domestic or agricultural labor to repay debts; foreign migrant women are vulnerable to sex trafficking in Timor Leste, while men and boys from Burma, Cambodia, and Thailand are forced to work on fishing boats in Timorese waters under inhumane conditions
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List – Timor Leste does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; in 2014, legislation was drafted but not finalized or implemented that outlines procedures for screening potential trafficking victims; law enforcement made modest progress, including one conviction for sex trafficking, but efforts are hindered by prosecutors’ and judges’ lack of expertise in applying anti-trafficking laws effectively; the government rescued two child victims with support from an NGO but did not provide protective services (2015)

Illicit drugs