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14 Sep 2008

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Asean Human Rights:
Proposed body should adopt UN’s criteria – Thai envoy

The credibility of a proposed rights body under the charter of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) would depend on the regional bloc’s resolve to observe international standards, not on its imposition of specific criteria that member-countries of the association should meet, a local daily quoted Thailand’s ambassador to the Philippines Sihasak Phuang Ket Kaew as saying.

Speaking at the conclusion of the Third High Level Panel meeting on the Asean rights body, the Thai envoy, who chairs the Asean Human Rights High Level Body, stressed that the rights body would be guided by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, not by the current situa¬tion in member-country Myanmar, reported the Manila Times.

“Human rights are universal, they trans¬cend borders and diversity. Follow¬ing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will make the human-rights body credible,” Ket Kaew pointed out.

He said the rights body under the Asean charter is aimed at benefiting the whole region, not only Myanmar.

Myanmar’s ruling junta has long been reported to be committing human- rights violations, One such breach, reports have said, is its refusal to honor the results of the 1990 elections that were won by democracy leader San Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi has since remained under House arrest.

Western countries earlier accused Asean of being “soft” in dealing with Myanmar, since the regional body has not opted to impose economic and political sanctions on military-led Yangon. Asean groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indone¬sia, Laos, Malay¬sia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singa¬pore, Thailand and Vietnam.

But Philippine Ambassador Rosario Manalo of the High Level Task Force on the Drafting of the Asean Charter said that there should be no leveraging between Myanmar and Asean.

“Asean is not Myanmar, Myanmar is only a part of it,” Manalo said also over the weekend.

“We are not doing the Asean rights  body for a specific country, we are building for the entire region. If we can’t do that, then we won’t have any credibility,” she added.

While Asean will be using the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights  as a cornerstone, it would also involve outputs from relevant stake¬holders such as civil - society groups and renowned rights organisations.

During the Manila meeting on September 11, Ket Kaew said that the panel met with academicians to come up with human-rights mechanisms. Asean has been working on such mechanisms since 1993.

The panel also asked help from rights groups. Representatives from the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights and their counterparts in  Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand participated in the meeting.

“There was no hostility during the entire discussion, everybody was cooperative and has expressed a strong political will to move forward with the rights body. We want to share good principles, cooperation, technology, education. It is unfair to solely base it on investigation (of alleged human-rights violations of Asean member-countries),” Manalo said.




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