07/31/2007, 00.00
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ASEAN agrees on Human Rights body

by Santosh Digal
The body will be instituted in the regional charter which member nations are due to sign in November. The 10 foreign ministers ask Myanmar for greater democracy and freedom for Aung San Suu Kyi.

Manila (AsiaNews) – Southeast Asian foreign ministers today agreed to set up a regional human rights commission : they also urged military-ruled Myanmar to finally make quick progress on its repeated promises to implement democracy and free political prisoners, above all Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, still under house arrest.

The foreign ministers agreed to set up a regional human rights commission despite strong resistance from Myanmar and expressions of concern from three member-states with poor human rights records (Cambodia, Laos e Vietnam).  The body will keep vigil over member nations human rights records and will be instituted by the signing of the regional charter of ASEAN members due to take place on November 20th next, in Singapore.  In the past the body was held to ransom over some countries fears scrutiny of their human rights record, and the group has traditionally held to a cardinal policy of “non-interference” in each other’s affairs.

“I am pleased to announce agreement among the ASEAN Foreign Ministers - Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo told media – on the inclusion of a provision in the ASEAN Charter that mandates the creation of a human rights body”. Romulo said the establishment of a human rights commission would give ASEAN “more credibility in the international community”, adding he hoped it would be signed in November.

Issues on the agenda for the Singapore meeting include a possible change to the current decision making system; which is based on consensus voting.  The foreign ministers confirm that they had already been reached on 90 percent of the charter, which will transform ASEAN into a European Union-style grouping with rules and norms to which all 10 nations will have to adhere.   


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