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July 23, 2008

Asean Human Rights Body:
Myanmar: Junta opposes investigative powers

Myanmar's junta has indicated it will oppose any effort to give a Southeast Asian human rights body the power to monitor or investigate rights violations in the region, the Associated Press quoted diplomats as saying Tuesday.

A high-level panel of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations started work Monday to set up the rights body. The panel will lay down the body's future makeup, role and powers, which will be presented to a summit of Asean

leaders in December.

But in a closed-door session with the panel Monday, Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win said the human rights body should uphold ASEAN's bedrock policy of noninterference in each other's affairs, a diplomat present at the meeting

told the Associated Press.

The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorised to speak to the media.

Another diplomat who attended a separate meeting between all 10 Asean ministers and the panel also said Nyan Win made clear his opposition to the rights body having any monitoring authority.

Myanmar's military government, which has been strongly criticised by Western governments and even fellow Asean members for its dismal human rights record, has used the bloc's policy to parry any attempt by outsiders to intervene

on behalf of human rights victims in the military-ruled nation.

It has already been decided that the rights body will not have the power to impose sanctions or seek prosecution of violators. But Myanmar's objections, if honored, will make the body even less effective.

A majority of other Asean foreign ministers, led by Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, separately told the panel that the human rights body should at least be empowered to monitor violations and offer advice to prevent such

problems, said the first diplomat.

The rights body is being set up as part of Asean’s proposed new charter, which seeks to make the organization rule-based.

More on Asean

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