14 July 2009

Sandalwood and Environmental Law in East Timor


The island of Timor was famous centuries ago for its vast forests of sandalwood trees. Even before the colonization by the Portuguese, the existence of the sandalwood forests had been documented in 1436 by Chinese traders. In those documents, Timor was described as “a region of mountainous terrain covered in sandalwood trees and the country produces nothing else.” The island of Timor was included in a map of the known world in 1529 while Java was not. The first Portuguese person who visited Timor, Duarte Barbosa, wrote in 1598 that “white sandalwood on the island is very abundant and the Moors in India and Persia attached a very high value to it with many benefiting from the sandalwood trees”.

During the Portuguese period, although other “commodities” such as honey, wax and slaves were also exported from the island, the focus of trade was sandalwood.

The influence of the sandalwood trade extended to the structure and development of the local political systems. The power of kings on the northern coast of Timor in the 16th century was a direct result of the sandalwood trade.

The Destruction of the Sandalwood Forests of East Timor during the Indonesian Occupation

Read the full article on ea

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