Monday, November 11, 2013

Timor Leste in ASEAN? Not in 2014

Last week the Myanmar Times had an article on Timor Leste's bid to join ASEAN.  The article quoted several sources as stating that Timor Leste would not be close to joining ASEAN in 2014:

"the [Myanmar] government believes Timor Leste has a number of shortcomings that make joining the group in 2014 impossible. . . . . Timor Leste has failed to build embassies in all 10 ASEAN member nations, a prerequisite under the current entry requirements. Timor Leste does not have an embassy in Myanmar but has said it plans to build one in Nay Pyi Taw."

Myanmar's opinion on this is quite important, as Myanmar will serve as ASEAN Chair in 2014.  However, other observers confirm that Timor Leste has not met the technical requirements for membership:

"Timor Leste remains the “poor cousin of geographic Southeast Asia” and sending representatives to numerous ASEAN meetings and summits, of which there are more than 1000 each year, would be a financial burden. Its lack of infrastructure, including road and air links, means it would also not be in a position to host large meetings of ASEAN officials."

I elaborated on these and other reasons for Timor Leste not joining ASEAN in one of the earliest posts on this blog here.  From the Myanmar Times article, it seems that Timor Leste has not yet made up enough ground to get into ASEAN any time soon. On the other hand, one could also say that ASEAN itself has not yet made sufficient progress on its regional integration efforts to take in Timor Leste.  In any event, with sufficient time and money, Timor Leste will catch up. The question remains whether ASEAN and the ASEAN institutions will be sufficiently developed to take in the country when it is ready.