General News

ASEAN human rights body "without teeth" statement mentioned in The Nation (Bangkok)

The Asean will be holding another summit with partners from Asia and the Pacific, from April 10 to 12 in Phuket, to discuss solutions for the global financial crisis and the economic downturn, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday.

The meeting of Asean leaders, with their counterparts from China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand, was originally supposed to be held in tandem with the Asean Summit in Cha-Am last week, but many key leaders could not attend.

Besides, Phuket is a much more convenient location to accommodate leaders of the 16 nations, Abhisit said. In addition, Phuket, a stronghold of the ruling Democrat Party, would be safe from anti-government protesters.

"Though Thailand is safe everywhere and I don't think we need to run away [from the red-shirted protesters]," Abhisit told reporters.

When asked if that was the case why wasn't the summit being held in Chiang Mai, the PM said: "We shall not challenge them as they have said they don't want us to hold the Asean meeting there."

Chiang Mai is the hometown of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and many of his supporters are against the Democrat-led government.

Leaders of the 10-member regional grouping would discuss the financial crises in several meetings with their counterparts from Asia and the Pacific. All the 16 leaders would also attend a meeting under the framework of an East-Asia Summit.

In addition, the leaders would also discuss the global financial crisis with key heads of global financial institutions, including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations.

The Asean Summit last week was criticised for failing to achieve any concrete progress, notably with regards to human rights.

The Bangkok-based Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) along with six other partner organisations said yesterday that Asean's terms of reference (TOR) for its human-rights body was "far below" expectation.

The Asean human-rights body, as mentioned in the TOR, "clearly lacks mandate on the protection [of human rights] aspect.

"The imbalance between promotion and protection mandates must be corrected," said Yap Swee Seng, executive director of Forum-Asia.

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