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What to expect at the coming ASEAN Summit

Updated On: Nov 07, 2006

After the fanfare of the ASEAN-China Summit, ASEAN is now busy preparing for the  up-coming ASEAN summit to be held in Cebu, the Philippines in December.

More details of the proposed ASEAN charter by the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) have been revealed by ex-President Ramos, the Philippines delegate of the EPG.

Ramos revealed that a ASEAN human rights mechanism has been agreed among the EPG members. The actual content of the mechanism has, however not been revealed. What is known is that the Philippines is pushing for the formation of a ASEAN Human Rights Commission, to be comprised of eminent persons from the ten member states. How this human rights mechanism would deal with the case of Myanmar and to a much lesser extent CambodiaLaos and Vietnam (all of which are not formal democracies) remains to be seen. It is also unknown as to how the proposed human rights mechanism would deal with future coups as in the recent case of Thailand.

Another proposal for the ASEAN Charter is the setting up of a research institute for ASEAN. An ASEAN institute would be established as part of a joint venture between the ASEAN Secretariat and the private sector to formulate policy recommendations for the research. This institute would also assist the Secretary-General in research and outreach activities.

Other than the discussion of the proposals for the ASEAN Charter by the EPG, the ASEAN members will be mulling over the signing of an ASEAN anti-terror pact. This pact is politically important for the Philippines as it is trying to return to the good books of Washington after pulling out its troops from Iraq. However, one item under the anti-terror pact, extradition of terror suspects is likely to be contentious. Not all the ASEAN countries have bilateral extradition agreement with one another. The only notable exception is that between Malaysia and Thailand.

Although the summit is a regional affair, the presence of the leader of an international organisation will be a sign of the potentially important role ASEAN members could play internationally. President Arroyo who is the Chair of ASEAN this year has invited World Trade Organisation (WTO) Secretary General Pascal Lamy to attend the ASEAN summit. Lamy who has already indicated his interest in attending the summit, is likely to lobby for greater political will by the ASEAN members and its dialogue partners in returning to the WTO bargaining table. There has not been much progress on the Doha Round since the stalemate in Hong Kong last December.

Sources:

ASEAN Charter Up At December Summit (Philippines News Agency, 2 November 2006)

‘Bold’ ASEAN Charter Drafted (Manila Bulletin, 3 November 2006)

Anti-Terror Pact a Test for ASEAN Solidarity (The Nation, 31 October 2006)