News Update :

Rights pact, breakthrough for region – ASEAN leaders

Monday, November 26, 2012



CAMBODIA: Southeast Asian leaders on Sunday endorsed a human rights declaration which they called a breakthrough for the region but critics said it fell well below global standards. Leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations adopted the joint declaration at their annual summit in Phnom Penh, saying it would enshrine human right protections for the bloc's 600 million people.

“It's a legacy for our children,” Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters after the signing ceremony.

The United Nations rights chief Navi Pillay and more than 60 rights groups called this month for the pact to be postponed amid concerns it undermined universal human rights standards by allowing loopholes for governments.

ASEAN's members have a wide range of political systems, from authoritarian regimes in Vietnam and Laos at one end of the spectrum to the freewheeling democracy of the Philippines at the other.Campaigners also slammed the lack of transparency and the absence of consultation with civil society groups during the drafting of the text.

ASEAN chief Surin Pitsuwan said the bloc's foreign ministers made an amendment to the text on Saturday aimed at addressing those complaints.

The amended text affirmed ASEAN nations would “implement the declaration in accordance to the international human rights declarations and standards”.

Meanwhile, Southeast Asian countries called on Saturday for a hotline with China to defuse tensions over their increasingly divisive maritime territorial rows.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan publicly floated the proposal for the South China Sea hotline ahead of three days of talks involving the region's leaders in Cambodia starting on Sunday.

“We can give it a sense of urgency that, if there is anything developing that we all will be phoned... trying to consult, trying to coordinate, trying to contain any possible spillover of any... incident, accident, miscalculation, misunderstanding,” Surin told reporters.

ASEAN members are also aiming to kickstart negotiations in Phnom Penh over a giant free trade zone with China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

AFP
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