The U.N. has tried to counter the misinformation with newspaper ads, radio announcements, even sending field workers to East Timor to photograph returnees, then giving the pictures to family members in the camps. Officials do not deny that some returning militiamen have been beaten, and one reportedly was killed, but generally the spirit in East Timor has been one of reconciliation and problems have been surprisingly few, relief workers say.
The militias' influence has been diluted since the days they ruled, first in East Timor and then the camps in West Timor. But the return of their leaders--something the Indonesian government should have prevented, relief officials say--has heightened tensions in the camps where anti-independence supporters intimidate, manipulate and instigate.
"The situation in the camps is very fragile, volatile," said Craig Sanders, who heads the U.N. refugee program in West Timor. "It's like skating on thin ice. It's rare that you can see you're on thin ice until it breaks, and when it does, you go down quickly."
Two weeks ago, five people died when West Timorese fought East Timorese in and around Tua Pukan camp here. The violence flared on rumors that a 16-year-old refugee girl had been impregnated by a West Timorese--a rumor that underscored the growing jealousy between the two groups, most of whose members are Christian, though Indonesia itself is predominantly Muslim.