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ASEAN discusses framework for regional rights body

Jan 30, 2008 (AFP), Human rights commissioners from four Southeast Asian nations began a two-day meeting in Manila Tuesday to try to establish the framework for a regional human rights body.

The 10-nation Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) last year agreed to set up an ASEAN human rights mechanism as part of its charter. But it did not agree a framework for the establishment of such a mechanism.

The four commissioners will try to work out a way of setting up a rights mechanism that is acceptable to all member states in the diverse regional grouping.

"Among all the regions of the world, it is only Asia that does not have a regional human rights system," the human rights commissioners said in a joint statement at the start of the closed door meeting Tuesday.

They said there needed to be "a more active engagement in ASEAN to push for such a mechanism".

Only four of the ASEAN countries , Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia , have human rights commissions.

The commissioners said the fact Asia does not have a human rights system in place is "detrimental to the Asian people".

"It is for the benefit of all that every region has a functioning human rights system so that all can invoke international standards," the statement said.

During the two-day meeting, the four will discuss terms of reference and joint projects to improve human rights throughout the ASEAN region where some members, such as Burma, have poor records.

ASEAN members Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam last year agreed to establish a regional human rights body, but have to individually ratify the charter for it to come into force.

Rights groups have cautiously welcomed the move, but stressed that time was running out to reverse abuses in rogue state Burma, which continues to detain democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.


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