Human rights in Asean seen as a paper tiger

Experts reacted cautiously to the human rights mechanisms put forward at the first international conference on human rights in Southeast Asia in Bangkok yesterday

The forum was organised by the Southeast Asian Human Rights Network and other partner organisations such as Mahidol University's Centre for Human Rights Studies and Social Development.

Some experts like Carlos P Medina, executive director of the Human Rights Centre in Manila believes the region's human rights mechanisms don't have teeth and merely concentrated on promotion, not protection.

"Asean is wary of its image, sometimes more than substance. There are many Asean ( )countries focusing on the makeup. We have to unmask it," he said

Associate Professor Azmi Sharon from the University of Malaya said the principle of non-interference, along with what is known as the Asean way, were the main obstacles.

"The Asean way is where we don't disturb each other, and just love others," he said, adding that there's a need to push for "proper treaties" that would promote and protect human rights in the region.

Viti Muntabhorn, a noted law professor at Chulalongkorn University, sounded slightly hopeful though, saying that at least the issue of human rights in Asean is "totally legitimate today".

However, he warned that "fa?adism" has prevailed on many fronts, with cyber laws in Thailand and beyond "unnecessarily" muzzling the freedom of expression.

"[The region] still spends too much on military and national security, and not enough on human security," he said, adding that the regional rights body still had no power to investigate or implicate individuals or countries that have committed abuses.

"The Asean is after all intergovernmental. It's not inter-people," he said, adding that there's a lack of democracy on many fronts in the region and not enough decentralisation and redistribution.

Surin Pitsuwan, Asean secretary-general, in his keynote speech acknowledged that "we have a long way to go" until the rhetoric of political discourse spreads throughout the region.

"In some landscape of the region, it doesn't apparently exist," he said, urging the gathering to elevate human rights in the region to a higher level.


Email from: Ms. Wahyuningrum (Yuyun)

By: By Pravit Rojanaphruk The Nation
When: 7/2/2014

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