Asean unveils 'toothless' rights body | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 28, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 28, 2009

Asean unveils 'toothless' rights body

A new Southeast Asian human rights body will promote fundamental freedoms, but will lack the power to punish violators such as military-ruled Myanmar, according to a draft proposal obtained yesterday by The Associated Press.
Officials attending the annual summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations hailed the push to create the body as a historic first step toward confronting abuses.
The confidential draft, which outlines the proposed powers of the future rights body, says it will "promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms." It falls short, however, of key demands voiced by international human rights groups, which say the body will have limited effectiveness unless it can impose sanctions or expel countries that violate the rights of their own citizens.
Asean traditionally shies away from criticizing its members, although some leaders said that issues of democratic reform in Myanmar and human rights abuses were being discussed on the sidelines of the meetings.
The document was presented behind closed doors to Asean foreign ministers gathered at a coastal resort in Thailand ahead of the annual leaders' summit this weekend.
The draft is the first to outline the body's proposed powers; a final one is expected in July.
"It is a historic first for Southeast Asia," said Rosario Manalo, a Philippine diplomat on the panel that drafted the human rights body's outline.
But some officials acknowledged concern that the text's lack of clout would prevent the body from being taken seriously.

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