ASEAN Human Rights Body: Talks Begin, Differences Emerge

Updated On: Jul 23, 2008

The newly appointed ASEAN high-level panel on a human rights body began work on Monday. The panel will discuss and report on the body’s future makeup, role and powers, which will be presented to the summit in December. This follows the ASEAN Charter’s Article 14 which promises to create this body.

But even as work began, grounds of concern were raised about the level of ambition for the body, with signs of differences in attitude emerging.

Initial reports are that the high level panel will avoid powers to punish any member country but instead rely on peer pressure. This follows earlier suggestions by Singapore foreign minister George Yeo that the body would have a tongue, even if not teeth to bite.

But subsequent reports raise further questions.

Myanmar is reported to take the view that human rights body should uphold the group’s bedrock policy of noninterference in each other’s affairs and opposes even any monitoring authority. If Myanmar’s objections are accepted, this would make it hard to see how the human rights body could be effective at all.

However, a majority of 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.

Separately, Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim said Malaysia wanted to propagate the inclusion of 'Asian values' into the Asean human rights body instead of transporting the Western interpretation as a whole. This was reported to include values, such as caring and respective for the elders and our way of musyawarah (consultation).

Source: TODAY 23 July 08, No interference in our affairs’ , http://www.todayonline.com/articles/266576.asp
Straits Times, 22 July 08, No offence in S'pore PM's remark: M'sian FM http://www.straitstimes.com/Latest%2BNews/Singapore/STIStory_260163.html...

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