Countries threaten boycott on rights talks

Burma and Cambodia have threatened to boycott a dialogue with the civil society organisations (CSOs) today if their own picks are not present for talks on a human rights body.

As the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) was debating terms of reference (TOR) for creating an Asean human rights body, Burma and Cambodia objected to the presence of civil society representatives that were not affiliated to governments at the session, sources said.

Laos and Vietnam feel the same way – they do not want talks with representatives they are not familiar with, said CSO sources.

Burmese civil society was scheduled to be represented by Burma Partnership’s Khin Ohmar while Cambodia would be represented by a Cambodian youth volunteer.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva conceded that the stance of the CSOs and the Asean officials regarding the TOR drafting would not be easily reconciled, but there were still several months to sort out the problem.

Yesterday, Asean foreign ministers and the high-level panel on Asean human rights failed to agree on the criteria and process of nominating human rights commissioners, their job description, and whether they would have any monitoring role or just promote awareness of human rights. The TOR must be flexible to work, said Mr Abhisit.

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