On October 27th, Mr Christian Whiton, whose work I respect, wrote in WSJ.com on the reasons why Timor Leste should join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). Now I would agree with the political, economic and other reasons put forth in the article. Unfortunately, I do not see how this will become reality any time soon, perhaps not in this decade.
Have things changed since 2011, when Indonesia was actively pushing for Timor Leste in its role as Asean Chair?
On the ground, Timor Leste has improved its governance and infrastructure, as Mr Whiton notes in his article. However, sources in the Asean Secretariat and in Dili have indicated to me that Timor Leste is still far behind in understanding and incorporating the aquis of commitments associated with full Asean membership. Much of this is related to the relative lack of skills and human resources in Timor Leste’s government; however, similar issues did not hold back Cambodia from joining Asean, issues which were resolved through the passage of time and the influx of resources.