Asean talks leave out human rights

Week-long discussions are aimed at approving a new charter for the 10-nation bloc.

    Diplomats hope the new constitution will pave
    the way for a regional free-trade zone [EPA]

    Alberto Romulo, the Philippines' foreign secretary, said: "There is a universal declaration of human rights in the charter of the United Nations."
     
    "It's a universal desire that there must be a human rights commission, and I believe that Asean can do no less," he said.
     
    Asean members has traditionally stuck to a policy of non-interference in each other's affairs and negotiators have not agreed on how to punish members which violate the new charter.
     
    "Socially responsible"
     
    Tint Swe, a member of Myanmar's National League for Democracy who lives in exile, said: "Non-interference in internal affairs may have been the factor that has kept socially responsible Asean members silent over human rights violations in the past."
     
    "The time has come to change that attitude," he said.
     
    But sanctions for punishment have been ruled out of the charter, and Sunday's failure to establish the human rights commission means the bloc effectively has only a matter of weeks to try again before the document is adopted at a Singapore summit in November.
     
    Diplomats said that 90 per cent of the charter was on track, hoping to pave the way for a possible regional free-trade zone and better co-operation on terrorism and nuclear power.
     
    Until now, Asean, which celebrates its 40th anniversary next month, has operated without a constitution, relying instead on informal diplomacy and decision-making by consensus.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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