Accession of East Timor to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations

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Flag of East Timor
ASEAN (blue) and East Timor (red)

The accession of East Timor to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a process that started following the independence of the country in 2002 when its leaders stated that it had made a "strategic decision" to become a member state of ASEAN in the future.[1] Closer ties with ASEAN are supported by all political parties in East Timor.[2] East Timor would have by far the smallest GDP in the ASEAN, less than 15% of the smallest current ASEAN member state Laos.[3]

In 2002, East Timor was recognised as an observer of ASEAN and joined the ASEAN Regional Forum in 2005.[1] In January 2007 the country acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, pledging to renounce the use of force and binding East Timor to non-interference in the internal affairs of ASEAN member states.[4]

In 2005, East Timor said it wanted to be a member by 2010.[5] In December 2007 President José Ramos-Horta restated that joining was a top priority, and he hoped to join by 2012.[6] In January 2009, the Prime Minister of Thailand said that his country would support East Timor's membership of ASEAN by 2012.[7]

East Timor officially applied for membership in ASEAN on 4 March 2011.[8] After elections in 2012, the new government reaffirmed their commitment to joining the association.[9] While Indonesia, which East Timor gained their independence from in 2002, has pushed for them to be granted ASEAN membership, other countries, such as Singapore and Laos, have objected on the grounds that East Timor is not yet developed enough to join.[10][11] However, after the ASEAN summit in April 2013, Secretary General of ASEAN Le Luong Minh stated that all member states now supported Timor-Leste's admission to the Association.[12] Minh also stated that "Timor Leste is not yet ready to join ASEAN. So we are pushing them to qualify the obligations."[13] President of the Philippines Benigno Aquino III pledged his country's support to East Timor's ASEAN membership in June 2013.[14]

By September 2013, the ASEAN's Coordinating Council Working Group was still evaluating Timor-Leste's membership application, and Minh said that there was no timeline for when the assessment would be completed.[15] Singapore pledged that it would not block Timor-Leste's membership in the Association, with their Second Minister for Foreign Affairs, Grace Fu, saying "For any member to come into ASEAN and to be ready for 2015 will be quite a big step. Whether Timor Leste is ready, whether it has its eyes on 2015, we like to have a working group to evaluate."[16] In November 2013, U Aung Htoo, ASEAN Affairs Department deputy director, said that Timor Leste would not be ready to join in 2014 since they do not have an embassy in all 10 current ASEAN member states, a necessity for membership.[3]

In 2015, East Timor said it is now ready to join the association at any time, telling via East Timor's ambassador to Malaysia that their country had at least fulfilled two major requirements for ASEAN membership such as the country was located in this region and it had opened embassies in ASEAN member countries. The Philippines re-echoed its support for East Timor's accession to ASEAN on the same year..[17]

In 2016, Indonesia has announced that Timor-Leste's ASEAN membership bid might be realized in 2017 since the feasibility studies conducted by both countries on Timor-Leste's stability, security, economy, and culture will be finished by the end of 2016. Middle of 2016, Cambodia's Prime Minister announced that they back Timor-Leste's membership in ASEAN. At the same time, the ruling party in the Philippines that backed East Timor was defeated in the presidential elections.

In 2017, the Philippines, a close ally of Timor-Leste, became the ASEAN host for 2017. A general meeting is expected to conclude in November.[18]

See also


  1. ^ a b East Timor Needs Five Years to Join ASEAN: PM Archived 9 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine., AFP, 27 July 2006, accessed on 22 December 2008
  2. ^ Political Parties and Groupings of Timor-Leste Archived 21 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine., Australian Labor Party's International Projects unit, 1 May 2007, accessed on 26 December 2008
  3. ^ a b Aung, Nyan Lynn; McLaughlin, Tim (7 November 2013). "Timor Leste on the ASEAN waiting list". The Myanmar Times. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  4. ^ France, East Timor sign nonaggression pact with ASEAN, International Herald Tribune, 12 January 2007, accessed on 22 December 2008
  5. ^ Timor-Leste wishes to join ASEAN in 5 years, Xinhua, 2 December 2005, accessed on 26 December 2008
  6. ^ Timor's key concern: preparing for ASEAN membership Archived 21 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine., ACP-EU Courier, 1 December 2007, accessed on 26 December 2008
  7. ^ Thailand to support East Timor's membership of Asean, East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin, 13 January 2009, accessed on 27 November 2009
  8. ^ McGeown, Kate (4 March 2011). "East Timor applies to join Asean". BBC News. Retrieved 24 February 2017. 
  9. ^ "Timor Leste remains steadfast to ASEAN aspiration". Secretary-General of ASEAN. 7 December 2012. Archived from the original on 12 December 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2013. 
  10. ^ Padden, Brian (29 March 2011). "Indonesia Supports East Timor's Bid to Join ASEAN". Voice of America. Retrieved 20 February 2013. 
  11. ^ "Philippine Civil Society To Support Timor-Leste Bid for ASEAN Membership". 7 June 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  12. ^ Tisnadibrata, Ismira Lutfia (16 May 2013). "Timor-Leste poised to win ASEAN membership". Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  13. ^ "Timor Leste faces uphill to join ASEAN". Xinhua News Agency. 29 April 2013. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  14. ^ "Singapore and the Philippines express support for Timor-Leste’s bid for ASEAN membership after Official visits". Government of Timor-Leste. 19 June 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  15. ^ "Timor Leste must wait for full ASEAN membership". Brunei Times. 12 September 2013. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 
  16. ^ "S'pore won't block Timor Leste's bid to join ASEAN". Brunei Times. 21 September 2013. Archived from the original on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2013. 
  17. ^ "Timor Leste is ready to join Asean grouping". Bernama. Daily Express. 11 April 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  18. ^ Hunt, Luke (27 May 2016). "East Timor Hopes for ASEAN Membership by 2017". The Diplomat. Retrieved 24 February 2017. 
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