Rights pact, breakthrough for region – ASEAN leaders
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
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
Meanwhile, Southeast Asian countries called on Saturday for a hotline
with China to defuse tensions over their increasingly divisive maritime
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.