The Asean Human Rights Body

Thai Permanent Representative to Geneva Sihasak Phuangketkeow, former Ambassador Rosario Manalo, DFA spokesman Claro Cristobal

From right: Thai Permanent Representative to Geneva Sihasak Phuangketkeow, former Ambassador Rosario Manalo, DFA spokesman Claro Cristobal

It will be an inter-governmental body, which will reflect the realities as well as “diversities” in the countries that make up the Asean region, according to the high level task force on the Asean human rights body that is now drafting the terms of reference for the institution. Notes on the press briefing inside.

hr asean

two meetings already, first in singapore. second meet in bangkok in august, this is 3rd meeting. right now we have a work plan that we have agreed upon. our thinking is that we would like to proceed as expeditiously as possible with regard to setting up asean hr body but final decision made by asean mins and leaders. according to work plan, first draft of tor ready for asean mins when they meet in bangkok before asean summit meeting in dec this year. that would be opportunity for us to present first draft of tor to asean fms. we hope to have final draft ready by july when amm meet in bangkok 2009 next year. subject to their approval we will submit this to leaders of asean during summit at end of year 2009 dec. if it meets with approval of leaders we hope this asean hr body can be launched at summit meet in bangkok 2009. this is the time that we are working on. the other thing that we regard as impt and part of mandate given by asean fm is this asean hr body is something also of great interest to the peoples of asean. one of main objectives of asean charter is to make asean a people oriented community. this asean hr body is central to idea of people oriented asean community. for this reason asean fm have asked us to engage with relevant stakeholders especially members of civil society. here in our 3rd meeting before our meeting we met with some members of civil society, morning of 11th. working group on hr mechanism…comprise academicians, people from civil society who have been working on asean regional hr mechanism for a long time…since 1993…we also met with reps of the network of hr institutions in asean at present they comprise reps of the national hr commission in 4 asean countries, rp, indon, malaysia and thai. solidarity of asian people’s advocacy…plus one more org, which is the asean women’s caucus. basically since we’re still at initial stage of consideration and just entering discussion on substantive issues relating to tor, meeting with members of civil society really just to engage withthem, listen to their view and benefit from their inputs…bring as many of their inputs to our consideration as much as possible. we had a very good meeting…what they want to see in terms of reference of asean human rights body and how they want to see this ahr body function in terms of promoting and protecting hr in the asean region…presented us with proposals which we will be taking into serious consideration. plan to meet with them again hopefully in dec in bangkok at the time of the summit meeting. insofar as our own meeting is concerned, we discussed some of the substantive issues, key elements we believe should be addressed in tor. main objectives that are guiding…art14 of charter, promotion and protection of hr and fundamental freedom of peoples in asean in conformity with asean charter. this is our guiding objective. here discussed purposes, principles, issues related to mandates and functions of this hr body which we have not yet settled on an official name as yet. that will be discussed in due course. we had a good discussion today. with regard to purposes we see that first of all it has to promote what is in the asean charter, to strengthen the asean community, the people oriented…to make it people oriented. we also think it’s important that this asean hr body uphold international hr norms and standards which is very impt to credibility of asean hr body. and i’d like to also add that we’re still at preliminary stage of work but one of the principles that we will be guided in our deliberation is first we have to be credible. that’s very impt. this idea of the ahr is being followed closely by people of asean, intl community also following what we’re doing so i think we have to be credible. also impt that we be realistic. asean has 10 members, considerable diversity, has to be realistic in recognizing and addressing diversity within asean. but what is impt is you want to have all asean countries on board in this endeavor. it’s one of the…part of the concept of the asean community. these are some of the issues that we discussed, thinking guiding our work. we’re still at initial stage of discussion, still evolving, at this moment we cannot inform you of everything we discussed bec still evolving process. that’s what i have for you at moment.

manalo: don’t think i can add anything more to what you have said.


when you say asean to be credible in intl community…one serious concern is situation in myanmar, how gain credibility…

thai: not here to address specific situation in specific country. here for idea of asean human rights body…protection of human rights…hope this body will help countries in region to move forward in terms of promotion and protection of human rights in way that is realistic, takes into consideration specificity of situation in each country…if we can do that will help…enhance image of asean…not address situation in particular country…if we have established this will help contribute to advancement of hr in region…

manalo: you should all bear in mind that asean is not myanmar. region of southeast asian and myanmar is there. building for entire region a regional hr regime…rest of world should see to it we meet universal standards we are advocating for in asean…then there is credibility. don’t want to leverage region in terms of myanmar. look at region as asean.

discussions reached point where drafted mechanism on how hr body would address specific violations in member countries?
we have not gotten to that stage…talking about specific functions of ahr in terms of promotion and protection. discussion of that nature will come up when we talk about specific functions…advancing hr in region does not mean addressing violation alone. in comprehensive way, also positive way. we need to raise awareness of importance of hr, priority attached, agenda of each country, incorporate hr education in curriculum…many things we can do and should do which involve positive contributions and something all countries can undertake.

manalo: in addition to that…we don’t have to address every member states violation of hr. all countries in world violate hr. we in asean want to advance the concept of hr in an effort not nly to see that they establish progressive liberal democratic regime in southeast asia but contribute to building…hr…in that way we contribute positively to efforts of hr around the world.

one of the proposals to give hr body the mandate to investigate hr violations and free access to victims as well as authorities?
we haven’t discussed…not reached that stage yet concerning the functions. we will discuss everything is on the table but as i said you should not be… just focusing on investigative powers or looking into violations bec there are many other things we can do to…

make ahr credible?
see as evolving process. promotion is impt, element of protection is impt…this is something we are looking into…

manalo: there are many ways…a review on progress of member states…sharing good practices, cooperation and tech knowledge, education of people on hr, information and access to civil society…these are ways…rather than saying investigative…review, assistance, cooperation.

thai: it would not be fair to ahr if you would subject your conclusion on this body to that point alone because there are so many things that this body can do. share experiences…we can learn from one another. think and believe all countries want to move forward in terms of hr. situation different for each country. in areas move forward think they do want to move forward…to be fair you have to look at final product…many ways to improve well meaning and lives of people.

is this 3rd in series of high level meetings or is this last? on basis of meetings form general declaration of principles?
what i said was time frame…in the course of meeting we will have to be meeting every month. there will be 4th, 5th, 6th within this year. meeting every month bec we want to expedite. no, these tor will…address number of issues…mandates, functions, status, composition, who will this body report to, decision making process, source of funding…number of issues we have to address…just starting out…we still have to do a lot of work but recognize have to do expeditiously, that’s why we have set out this scope for ourselves.

can you give us a sense of how discussions went? were there no violent objections to proposals, meeting of minds on certain issues?
very happy with discussion bec everybody contributed to discussion but of course we have sometimes different views. we came together in spirit of…we know expectations placed upon us…civil society, peoples of asean, we recognize that. everybody contributing…we are looking to find common grounds. found common grounds on quite number of issues. we were talking about…mode and spirit of meeting, can say it was very good and everybody was contributing.

manalo: strong political will on part of every rep to move forward the process. that would describe the mode…

myanmar raise objections: no, ithink their contributions were positive. not offering something that would impede discussion. offering constructive opinions, very helpful in discussion. can’t cite but they were offering ways out of certain issues, contributing to see how we could find common grounds.

manalo: support of all principles…stated in charter…

realistic in sense that we have to recognize asean comprised of members…diversity int erms of econ devt, political systems, but all wanting to move forward in terms of hr and we have to uphold intl laws and hr…all taking part in hr council in geneva. realistic in sense we have to take this reality within asean..share same goal of setting up asean hr body that has functioned…setting up hr in region…

no different from universal declaration of hr? how more specific terms of reference?
we’re talking about functions of hr body have in raising awareness of hr, trying to …norms and standards within region…how can hr body function to strengthen norms, standards, hr in region..

from discussions with civil groups…did you have a sense that there are some countries with a more advanced level of hr consciousness and is that what you meant
consciousness is subjective. some of us like thai acceded to 7 of 9 intl statements of hr, some of us have less, but awareness is there…hr transcends borders, intl concerns..

when you talk about hr, one standard. hr is universal but at the same time also recognize univesality have to take into consideration specificity of countries and regions. even in geneva this is accepted principle. there is no double standard insofar as hr is concerned.


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