ASEAN human rights law’ taking shape (Bangkok Post, 10 May 2017)

ASEAN human rights law’ taking shape (Bangkok Post, 10 May 2017)

Established in 1967, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year celebrates its 50th anniversary. In retrospect, the organisation has progressed well in accommodating differences between countries and has contributed much to fostering peace and cooperation in the region. We should also not forget the overly broad limitations on human rights in the guise of “morality”, and an emphasis on “non-confrontation” interplaying with the ASEAN governmental attachment to sovereignty.  Stepping stones for future development of a human rights law include a call for ASEAN and its member countries to take the following actions. First, they should accede to all the international human rights treaties as binding law. Second, the grouping should build national systems to protect people’s human rights. At the same time, it should open the door to regional mechanisms if there are no national remedies. Third, they should ensure that there is no retrogression when ASEAN instruments are drafted and adopted. Meanwhile, there should be value added to strengthen and not undermine international standards on human rights and democracy.