Activists and member states discuss ASEAN rights body

Sep 16, 2008 (DVB), Representatives of NGOs were among those who took part in ASEAN discussions in Manila on 11 September on the setting up of a body to monitor state compliance with the ASEAN human rights charter.

Aung Myo Min, director of the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, attended the ASEAN meeting and said there was debate between nations on the source of human rights norms.

"There were some disagreements among the representatives from the 10 ASEAN countries who attended the meeting," Aung Myo Min said.

"Nations like the Philippines were keen on drawing up a human rights charter based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," he explained.

"But countries like Burma and Laos were against that idea , they wanted the charter to be based upon Asian values."

But Aung Myo Min said others had said a charter based on Asian values would not be feasible given the diverse range of cultures and traditions within ASEAN member states.

Aung Myo Min said the forum had also discussed the establishment of a mechanism to hold states accountable for violations of human rights.

"The arguments also revolved around how to set up human rights courts or tribunals on a local scale," he said.

"We very much wanted that to happen but some people believed it was still too early for ASEAN to have such a system , it seemed like they didn’t want it to happen. They didn’t want to give power to the court," he continued.

"We gave our opinions and expressed our desire to make this possible but we have to wait and see if we can get agreement from the people responsible for drawing up the charter and how much approval they will get from the ASEAN foreign ministers."

Reporting by Aye Nai

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