News / Asia

ASEAN Approves Controversial Human Rights Declaration

Cambodia's PM Hun Sen, left, with ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan after the ceremony for the adoption of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration,  during the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, November 18, 2012.
Cambodia's PM Hun Sen, left, with ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan after the ceremony for the adoption of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, during the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, November 18, 2012.
Irwin Loy
— Southeast Asian leaders have signed off on a controversial region-wide human rights declaration in what they say is a landmark moment.  But critics say the declaration is insufficient and will give countries an excuse to ignore, rather than protect, human rights.

Heads of state from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations hailed the agreement as a significant milestone for the region. In a ceremony on Sunday, leaders from the 10-member bloc etched their signatures on a region-wide Human Rights Declaration.

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan had only praise for the accord when speaking with reporters afterwards.

“I think that is a major, major development... the leaders have just signed that into a declaration committing themselves, every government, every country, to the highest standards, existing and available. And this certainly can be used to monitor the practice, the protection, the promotion of human rights here in the ASEAN countries," he said.

However, many rights groups say the declaration will likely fall short of minimum standards, even though ASEAN leaders have touted recent additions highlighting the importance of existing international laws.

Of particular concern, critics say, are sections included in previous drafts that suggest rights will be considered in light of “regional and national contexts." The same passage remains in the final declaration released publicly late Sunday. 

“You cannot have a national or regional exception," said Phil Robertson, who is with New York-based Human Rights Watch. "You cannot set out a wide range of instances, like public morality, when all these rights would not apply.  All they have done is they have put the loopholes up front and then they have tried to decorate around them.”

About five-dozen rights groups from across ASEAN have also signed statements criticizing the declaration.  Critics have also slammed the process behind drafting the declaration.  An ASEAN committee was formed to create initial drafts, but these were never released publicly, even during limited consultation sessions with civil society groups.

“So far, we are working on leaked drafts, or sometimes just rumors," said Mora Sar, who is with the ASEAN Grassroots Peoples’ Assembly. "If they signed it in this current form, we as civil society, we are really upset.”

Rights groups have tried to make human rights a pressing issue during these meetings, particularly ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s highly anticipated visit, which is scheduled to begin Monday following a stopover in Burma.  But it is likely that ongoing debates over territorial claims to the South China Sea, as well as discussions on the economy and potential new free-trade areas, will dominate upcoming summit meetings.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: ajay Chaturvedi from: India
November 18, 2012 8:23 AM
ASEAN Summitis important not only for the members of the ASEAN but also for India and the regional security. India needs to move fast and support the endeavour of ASEAN to stand up against China's coercive tac in South China Sea. It is an opportunity India should not miss.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid