Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday expressed hope that the newly-inaugurated Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, and other leaders of Asean member states will support East Timor’s bid for Asean membership during its summit in Bangkok at the year’s end.
Hun Sen made the appeal on Facebook as he attended Jokowi’s swearing-in ceremony in Jakarta as president for a second mandate.
Citing reasons for his support, Hun Sen said that East Timor has made every effort to become an Asean member and has opened its embassies in all member states.
“His Excellency the Indonesian president supported Samdech Techo Hun Sen in allowing [East] Timor to become the 11th member of Asean.
“Indonesia also supports His Excellency the East Timorese president, considering the country’s participation in Asean as an important issue,” Hun Sen said on Facebook.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan told The Post on Sunday that Hun Sen has made great efforts to promote unity in Asean.
“He [Hun Sen] has helped end discrimination between old and new Asean members. We are continuing to unleash the potential of our neighbouring countries,” he said.
Kin Phea, the director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said on Sunday that it is in the spirit of a regional and community that Prime Minister Hun Sen fully supports East Timor to become an Asean member.
This is because a country’s eligibility to become an Asean member is based on some main principles, where the first one is the geographical location.
Cambodia is the first Asean member to support East Timor’s bid to join the 10-nation bloc..
Phea said: “If we talk about trade exchange or importance in the political sector, then it is not very significant.
“But it is a show of mutual support in a community and regional integration spirit in which Cambodia’s previously had difficulties in its process of becoming an Asean member as well.
“We tried to become an Asean member in 1998 but we could not. We only succeeded in 1999.”
Phea said Cambodia had this experience because the Kingdom was seen negatively in certain perspectives.
Former Portuguese colony
East Timor was previously colonised by Portugal in the 16th century and was known as Timor Tugal until 1975 when the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor declared territorial independence.
Nine days later, the country was invaded and occupied by the Indonesian military and was annexed as the 27th province of Indonesia the following year.
The occupation of East Timor by Indonesia was full of violence and resulted in bitter conflict for decades between rebels and the Indonesian military.
East Timor achieved independence after a UN-convened popular consultation in 1999. This gave the East Timorese population the chance to choose between autonomy within Indonesia or independence.
It chose independence and in May 2002, the UN handed over authority to the democratically-elected government of now Timor-Leste. The country was admitted as the 191st UN Member State on September 27 the same year.
East Timor became the first new sovereign state in the 21st century. In 2011, it announced its intention to become the 11th Asean member.