Govt Pushes ASEAN Rights Issues

JAKARTA ~ The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) lags behind other international regional groupings in addressing human rights issues, Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda has said.

Wirayuda pointed out that the European Union, African Union and the Organisation of American States had their own rights bodies, the official Antara news agency reported this week.

“We know that ASEAN lags behind other regional groupings in addressing human rights concerns,” Wirayuda said at a discussion with ASEAN representatives.

But he admitted it would not be easy as not all ASEAN members were happy at the idea of an empowered regional human rights body.

“So we have to catch up. Perhaps not today or next month. But in the foreseeable future we have to advance far enough to catch up,” Wirayuda said.

Wirayuda said rights concerns had to be addressed and warned that neglecting the issue could impede ASEAN’s efforts to become a community and have an economic cost on the grouping, Antara reported.

In June, Malaysia called for a regional mechanism for Southeast Asian countries to address human rights issues.

Earlier, in April, Southeast Asian experts and the European Union urged the creation of a regional rights mechanism, saying it would help to address human rights in the face of Myanmar’s continued detention of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

ASEAN first mulled a regional rights mechanism in 1993, but progress has been slow, with rights issues remaining a sensitive topic for many of the grouping’s members. Officials have said a mechanism would give ASEAN a stronger collective voice in dealing with human rights issues.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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