Human rights high on Asean agenda

The Asean Ministerial Meeting in Phuket next week will be highlighting human rights and on its agenda is endorsement of a final report on the terms of reference for the Asean human rights body, besides close discussions on Burma.

Asean wants a credible and realistic mechanism to protect and promote human rights. However, the proposed Asean body has been widely criticised for being toothless in protecting rights in member countries.

A high-level panel will submit its final report to the ministers on Sunday, prior to a meeting of the regional grouping, according to Foreign Ministry’s director of the Asean Affairs Department, Vitavas Srivihok.

The working group admits the body has emphasised rights promotion rather than rights protection. The Asean human rights mechanism cannot impose sanctions, and cannot inspect or report on the human rights situation in member countries.

“Taking into account the member countries, we have to be realistic otherwise the body will not work at all,” Vitavas said. “The human rights body will be an evolving process, so it can be adjusted to fit the reality later.”

The situation in Burma, with its negative record on human rights, would be discussed in the Asean meeting, he said, but declined to speculate on the outcome. Asean always expresses concern over Burma’s political situation but rarely takes any action against the junta.

More than 1,200 delegates from 26 countries, plus an international organisation, will be in Phuket for the seven-day meeting, which includes 32 meetings. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend as a dialogue partner of the group and also take part in the Asean Regional Forum meeting.

The US will sign the instruments of accession and extension to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. Clinton will have a meeting on the sidelines with her counterparts from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam on Mekong basin development and other trans-border issues, Vitavas said.

North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chon will not attend the ARF, assigning an ambassador-at-large to represent Pyongyang. The Korean Peninsula issue has been in the spotlight following recent missile tests.


The resort island of Phuket will be offlimits to all protests during the summit next week, when even the delegates and media representatives will be under restrictions.

People have a right to express opinions about Asean – but not in Phuket next week, the Foreign Ministry’s Director of Asean Affairs Department Vitavas Srivihok said.

The island will be under the Internal Security Act and the miliฌtary, which is in charge of security, will deploy some 10,000 troops there. It will set up checkpoints throughout the island to prevent disฌruption of the meetings.

Delegates and journalists will not be allowed to move freely in restrictฌed areas near the meeting venue.

All vehicles are required to regisฌter before entering the island and unregistered vehicles will not be allowed to cross Sarasin Bridge from the mainland, an official said.

The Internal Security Operational Command (Isoc) is in charge of vehiฌcle control. Registration of vehicles is between 8am6pm only, meaning vehicles arriving on the island after dark will be in trouble at security checkpoints.
nation BKK

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