The Association of Southeast Asian Nations or Asean is setting up the Coordinating Council Working Group to consider East Timor's quest for membership.
Srirat Ratspana, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department who joined the March 14 senior-official meeting in Singapore, said that the working group would focus on three areas - political and stability; economy, and social/culture.
She noted that this is the first time in years after Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Vietnam sought the membership of Asean.
Asean will thoroughly consider all aspects, to see how the inclusion of East Timor would benefit and influence Asean as well as the regional single market, she said. Consideration would also cover East Timor's readiness to follow through the criteria and strengthen its internal strengths to match with other members'.
East Timor or Timor-Leste on March 8 sought Thailand's assistance and support in its quest for the membership. The request was made by East Timor's Foreign Minister Zacarius Albano da Costa who is visiting the country as a guest of the Thai foreign ministry. The minister paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the Government House. They discussed bilateral cooperation and the strengthening of ties between the two countries.
Da Costa asked Thailand for support in preparing for his country for Asean membership in the hope that it would become part of the family soon.
Thailand established diplomatic relations with East Timor in 2002, the year the latter became independent from Indonesia. This year, the two countries are celebrating 10 years of friendship.