KUALA LUMPUR, Dec. 2 (Xinhuanet) -- Timor Leste hopes to join the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in five years, a Timor Leste official said here on Friday.
Timor Leste currently is just accorded guest status, but it hopes to become an observer very soon, and then a member, said Marcos da Costa, Timor Leste Charge d' Affaires in Malaysia.
To become a member of ASEAN, Timor Leste have to fulfill certain criteria, including setting up embassies in all the ASEAN member countries. Costa said that this was something quite impossible for the country right now due to lack of financial and human resources.
Timor Leste would strive to open embassies in ASEAN countries one by one in the coming five years and reach its target to join the group during the period, he added.
Currently, Timor Leste, with a population of less than 1 million, just has embassies in two ASEAN countries -- Indonesia and Malaysia. It is expected to open a third one in Thailand soon.
ASEAN held some 500 meetings each year and this was a heavy financial burden for Timor Leste, which has a per capita income of550 US dollars, to attend all of them, Costa said.
Timor Leste, like some other less developed ASEAN member countries, would benefit a lot by joining ASEAN through various socio-economic programs, he said.
The region is becoming a big market force and investment center and Timor Leste can also share these economic benefits, he was quoted by Malaysia's national news agency Bernama as saying.
Timor Leste, formerly known as East Timor, mainly exports coffee and marble and it also has potential for oil and gas exports.
Costa said that Timor Leste could also contribute to the overall stability and security of the Southeast Asian region which faces some serious threats and challenges such as terrorism.
He expressed the hope that the 11th ASEAN Summit, scheduled for December 12-14 here, would find ways and effective strategies to tackle some pressing problems, such as avian influenza, sea piracy, smuggling and terrorism.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Enditem