ASEAN suffers blow on human rights

Mar 2, 2009 (AP), Southeast Asian leaders wrap up a summit on Sunday they hoped would highlight their championship of human rights, but instead suffered a setback when military-ruled Burma and Cambodia refused to talk to two pro-democracy activists.

The prominent activists were barred from a meeting Saturday on human rights in the region, after the leaders of the two countries threatened to walk out. The activists had been selected as delegates for their countries.

The two day summit of the 10-nation bloc ends Sunday with a general declaration and a separate document on the region’s economy as it faces the global financial crisis.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scot Marciel called Saturday’s incident "unfortunate," and human rights advocates said it again proved Burma would continue to hamstring the Association of Southeast Asian Nations if it remained a member.

ASEAN, which encompasses a region of more than 500 million people, includes two communist regimes, two constitutional monarchies, a military dictatorship and fledgling democracies.

The meeting went ahead without the two pro-democracy delegates

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