Subject: Timor Leste Must Wait To Gain Entry Into Asean, Says Thailand

April 17, 2006 19:42 PM

Timor Leste Must Wait To Gain Entry Into Asean, Says Thailand

By D. Arul Rajoo

BANGKOK, April 17 (Bernama) -- Timor-Leste, which became a sovereign state four years ago after nearly 450 years of Portuguese colonial rule and almost a quarter century of occupation by Indonesia, will have to undergo gradual process before it can be accorded full membership in Asean, a Thai official said Monday.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Kitti Wasinondh said Timor Leste's participation in Asean activities would be discussed at the 10 nations' foreign ministers' retreat in Bali on Wednesday and Thursday.

"They could take part in non-sensitive activities like economic programmes that we have formal interest in.

"The entry into Asean will have to be step by step and the final decision whether or not they will be accepted as a full member will be a political decision," he said when briefing the media on the Bali meeting.

Timor Leste made moves last July to join Asean and became a member of the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) security dialogue.

There was emerging consensus among Asean that Timor Leste could accede to Asean's Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), Kitti said, adding that the foreign ministers would probably also discuss France's proposal to be part of TAC.

It was reported that there were some complications blocking Timor Leste's entry into the Asean, among them due to Asean's policy which allows a member state the right to agree to or reject any new membership based on the non-interference policy.

Myanmar has flatly rejected Timor-Leste's membership with Asean, linking President Gusmao's good relationship with the Myanmar opposition movement of Aung San Suu Kyi in the past.

"Furthermore, article 18 of the Founding Charter of Asean makes reference to 10 Asean Southeast Asian countries, thus Asean members have to amend the charter to accommodate Timor-Leste before the issue of our observer status and membership can be properly considered," Kitti said.

He also said that the issue of Myanmar was not on the proposed agenda for the Bali meeting but the foreign ministers would probably deliberate on a report to be submitted by Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar on his visit to Yangon last month.

Syed Hamid visited Yangon as an envoy of Asean on a fact-finding mission where he met Myanmar top officials and got feedback on the country's move towards democracy.

However, many observers considered the trip a failure as Syed Hamid was not allowed to meet opposition leader including Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest.


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