Subject: East Timor Expects Stability in 5 to 10 Years: Ramos-Horta [+ Won't Be Asean 'Basket Case]

also: East Timor won't be ASEAN 'basket case': Ramos-Horta

East Timor Expects Stability in 5 to 10 Years, Ramos-Horta Says

By Haslinda Amin

May 25 (Bloomberg) -- East Timor, Southeast Asia's newest nation that's under a state of emergency, will probably be stable within five to 10 years, President Jose Ramos-Horta said.

The country has been under a state of emergency since rebels led by Alfredo Reinado shot Ramos-Horta and fired on Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao's motorcade in coordinated attacks on Feb. 11. Reinado was killed in the attack at Ramos-Horta's home after a gunfight with the president's guards.

``The most important thing for us to do now is security,'' Ramos-Horta said late yesterday in an interview at a Foreign Correspondents Association event in Singapore.

The country's political and economic stability is crucial as East Timor seeks more foreign aid and investors for projects such as roads and bridges, as well as housing for the poor, he said. The country also needs funds to expand industries such as fisheries and agriculture in order to diversify from oil and gas, Ramos-Horta added.

East Timor is also trying to build a ``viable nation state'' before its 2012 participation in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Asean was created four decades ago to boost investment and trade in the region.

``We set this target for us to work harder,'' Ramos-Horta said in a speech. ``Asean wouldn't want a basket case as a new member.''

Assassination Attempt

Ramos-Horta returned to East Timor in April after more than two months in Australia recovering from the assassination attempt that he said failed to destabilize the nation. He was treated in Darwin, northern Australia, for multiple gunshot wounds.

He flew to Singapore through Darwin and said yesterday Singapore Airlines Ltd.'s regional carrier SilkAir will offer a direct flight from the island-state ``in the next few months.''

Ramos-Horta shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with countryman Bishop Carlos Belo for his efforts to bring peace during East Timor's 24-year occupation by Indonesia. As many as 100,000 East Timorese died in fighting with Indonesian forces or from preventable diseases during the period.

East Timor voted to end Indonesia's occupation in a 1999 referendum. The former Portuguese colony, which borders part of Indonesia on an island about 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of Australia, became independent in 2002.


East Timor won't be ASEAN 'basket case': Ramos-Horta

SINGAPORE, May 25 (AFP) - East Timor hopes to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations by 2012 but not as a "basket case" which might embarrass the bloc like Myanmar, President Jose Ramos-Horta said.

Addressing the Foreign Correspondents Association here late Saturday, Ramos-Horta said his six-year-old country was improving its economy and other institutions in order to be ready to join the Southeast Asian grouping.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, joined ASEAN in 1997 but has been a controversial member because of alleged human rights violations, including the continued detention of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, and torture claims.

Myanmar's ruling generals have also come under fire for blocking urgent humanitarian relief to victims of Cyclone Nargis, which devastated the Irrawaddy delta region.

No ASEAN country is opposing East Timor's membership and it largest member, Indonesia, has assigned a senior diplomat to help the young nation in its membership preparations, Ramos-Horta said.

"I hope that by 2012 we can (join ASEAN)," he told his audience of journalists and diplomats.

"We set this target as pressure on ourselves to work harder in order to be eligible to join ASEAN because obviously ASEAN countries, with the embarrassing problems of Burma/Myanmar, they wouldn't want a basket case, an unstable new member," he added.

"So we have to work hard," said the 58-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Ramos-Horta survived an assassination attempt in February, underlining instability in the impoverished country with a violent recent past.

East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was invaded by Indonesia in 1975 as it moved towards formal independence, starting a brutal 24-year occupation.

The country won its freedom in a 1999 UN-backed referendum that was marred by violence as Indonesian-backed militias laid waste to much of the country in a scorched earth campaign that displaced hundreds of thousands.

The country gained formal independence in 2002.

East Timor also faces formidable economic challenges despite massive reserves of oil and gas, analysts said.

The country is the least developed in Southeast Asia, with around 50 percent unemployment and most of the population surviving off subsistence farming.

It remains dependent on foreign assistance, with its its oil and gas industry still to be fully developed.

Ramos-Horta, a co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for championing East Timor's struggle for independence, meanwhile urged the International Criminal Court to indict Myanmar's military rulers for crimes against humanity.

But he continued to disagree with the United States and other Western nations on the effectiveness of imposing economic sanctions.

"If I were the prosecutor general of the International Criminal Court, I will find substantive evidence to start indicting them for crimes against humanity for what has been happening over the last 20 years in Burma," he said, referring to Myanmar by its former name.

He added, however: "I always oppose sanctions on impoverished countries and the sad thing is that powerful countries mostly impose sanctions on the weaker countries with which they don't agree."

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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