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Southeast Asian countries fail to reach full agreement on human rights

Southeast Asian countries fail to reach full agreement on human rights

Asia's biggest annual security meeting was set to open Monday with a sobering reminder that some countries in the region lag behind in implementing democracy and guaranteeing human rights.
Military-ruled Myanmar, which has been condemned for its dismal human rights record, on Sunday blocked creation of a human rights commission by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said a diplomat on a task force writing the group's charter.
The document will state that Myanmar did not accept the commission, leaving it to foreign ministers to resolve the issue, the diplomat told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam also suggested they are not ready for the immediate establishment of such a body, which could deal with human rights violations in the region, the diplomat said.
Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam _ ASEAN's most recent members _ all have authoritarian or single-party governments.
Separately, a Philippine proposal for a clause in the charter allowing ASEAN to vote on critical issues to hasten decisions instead of its normal reliance on consensus was struck down. It also was decided that there will be no mention of sanctions for member states for serious breaches of the charter, the diplomat said.
ASEAN foreign ministers meeting this week in Manila could decide to outline some kind of sanctions in a separate document, the diplomat said.
Conference spokesman Claro Cristobal stressed that any draft produced by the task force could still be changed by the ministers or ASEAN heads of state.
"This is a very important document," he said. "It has the potential of binding half a billion people's lives so every great deliberation is important."
Conference host Philippines believes an ASEAN rights body would give the bloc "more credibility in the international community, Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo said. Some countries have become frustrated over Myanmar's slow implementation of its pledge to introduce democracy, Romulo said.
"There should be reconciliation of all the various factions so that this will benefit not only the people of Myanmar, but our own credibility as ASEAN would be enhanced," Romulo told a news conference.
ASEAN, formed 40 years ago, decided to draft a charter to become a more rules-based organization with better bargaining power in international negotiations. It hopes the charter can be adopted at an ASEAN summit in November.
The debate over the charger reflects how ASEAN's diverse membership, including fledgling democracies, communist countries and a military dictatorship, has hobbled decision-making.
Some ASEAN countries fear any scrutiny of their human rights, and the group has traditional held to a cardinal policy of noninterference in each other's affairs. Human rights groups complain that this noninterference principle has fostered undemocratic regimes in the region.
Senior ASEAN diplomats were working separately in Manila to prepare a heavy agenda for the foreign ministers, who arrived Sunday.
They were expected to tackle terrorism, better enforcement of a regional anti-nuclear treaty, disaster management and ways to help poorer members catch up with wealthier ones to foster faster economic integration.
ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.


Updated : 2021-10-20 17:33 GMT+08:00