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 8 Oct 2008

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Asean Charter: Full ratification in sight

The Asean Charter ratification process is seen reaching its completion after the Philippines Senate ratified it on Tuesday and a special committee in the House of Representatives Indonesia, endorsed it for ratification in the next plenary meeting, which is held every Tuesday and Thursday.

The Indonesian House committee has agreed to all provisions in the landmark Asean charter and, reported local daily the Jakarta Post.

“The draft of the law on the charter ratification will be signed on Wednesday during which all 10 House factions will read their opinions. The draft will then be brought in the next plenary session for official ratification,” Marzuki, of the Golkar Party, told the newspaper Tuesday night.

Eight out of the ten members of Asean have already ratified the charter, with Thailand being the eighth to do so in September.

Asean leaders last year signed the long-overdue charter, which aims to formally turn the 41-year-old organisation - often derided as a powerless talk shop - into a rules-based legal entity. For the charter to take effect, it must be ratified by the parliaments of all Asean’s 10 member nations.

There had been concerns that ratification could have been derailed in the Philippine Senate. Some senators have criticized the lack of democracy in military-ruled Myanmar and demanded the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political detainees.

"It's a sham effort with which I do not wish to be identified," said the Associated Press quoted Aquilino Pimentel Jr., the lone Philippine senator who opposed the ratification Tuesday.

Pimentel said the ideals of democracy and human rights enshrined in the charter are meaningless unless Myanmar fulfills its pledge to rapidly democratize.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's spokesman, Jesus Dureza, welcomed the ratification, saying it would cement crucial ties among Southeast Asian nations.

One of the most significant pledges in the charter is to set up a regional human rights body. Critics say such a body will have a limited impact if it is not empowered to punish governments, such as that of Myanmar, which violate the human rights of their citizens.

Asean, which was founded in 1967, now comprises of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

























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