Subject: Thai Govt wants E. Timor in security grouping

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Bangkok Post November 8, 2002

Govt wants E. Timor in security grouping

By Achara Ashayagachat

Thailand backed East Timor's membership of the security-oriented Asean Regional Forum (ARF) next year, said its government spokesman Sidha Divari.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra wanted East Timor to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) as an observer at the Asean ministerial meeting next year, Mr Sidha said after talks between Mr Thaksin and President Xanana Gusmao.

Thailand would also back East Timor becoming a member of ARF, first held in Bangkok in 1994, he said.

President Gusmao, and a 10-member delegation, arrived in Bangkok yesterday for a four-day visit to discuss bilateral cooperation.

Thai help to the newest country in the United Nations has mainly focused on education and agriculture and would expand to health, fisheries, natural gas development, and construction at East Timor's request, Mr Sidha said.

The Foreign Ministry's Department of Technical and Economic Cooperation has offered 10 scholarships to Timorese students and the Health Ministry would send experts to the island country next month, he said.

Prime Minister Thaksin said he would increase the peace-keeping force from 370 to 500.

Last month, a Thai embassy opened in Dili. East Timor has nominated Viboon Engkakul as its honorary consul to Thailand. The nomination has to be approved by the Thai government.

Mr Gusmao and his delegation including Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta also met social activists, business people, and leaders of the association of Thai-East Timor culture and economic cooperation. The East Timorese president said training and exposure were keys to integration with Asean members and his country would not join the regional grouping for some years.

The Asian Institute of Technology pledged 10 scholarships while King Prachatipok Institute proposed training programmes on good governance, democratisation, and decentralisation for members of the National Assembly and government officials.

The Institute of East Asian Studies of Chulalongkorn and Thammasat universities offered Asean courses for public servants and scholars in East Timor.

Thai businessmen including Phuket Airlines owner Wikrom Isiri and Dolphin Ship owner Oran Aasvarithikul were interested in a direct aviation link and renovating Bao Cao airport.

The East Timorese president will visit Sa paper conservation village and Huay Hongkrai study centre in Chiang Mai today before having an audience with His Majesty the King at Klai Kangwon Palace tomorrow.

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