JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesia's parliament on Tuesday ratified
the Southeast Asian charter committing ASEAN member nations
to promote democracy and human rights, clearing the way
for its formal adoption before year's end.
The country was the last member of the 10-nation Association
of Southeast Asian Nations to ratify the charter, which
also sets out rules, transforms ASEAN into a legal entity
and envisages a single free trade area by 2015.
It is now expected to be formally adopted at the regional
bloc's annual summit in Bangkok in December.
But opponents in Indonesia criticised it as a purely
symbolic document with no power to bring real democratic
reform to errant members like military-ruled Myanmar.
Lawmakers said they had ratified it with four key conditions
which will be submitted for further discussion, aimed
at strengthening the charter and setting serious consequences
"The charter is open to amendments in the future
and we can always fine-tune them along the way,"
Foreign Minister Hasan Wirajuda said.
He said he hoped the charter would bring human rights
improvements in rogue ASEAN states like Myanmar.
"Once the charter is formed, we will see how serious
Myanmar is in making its roadmap to democracy. We will
see if it keeps to its promise," he said.
ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos,
Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand
The charter will give the bloc, much maligned as a pointless
talking shop, greater clout in international negotiations
but critics argue black sheep like Myanmar will continue
to get away with gross human rights abuses.
Its proposed new rights body is toothless and the charter
has no provision to sanction members such as Myanmar ,
where the junta has kept democracy leader Aung San Suu
Kyi under house arrest for most of the past 18 years.
Myanmar ratified the charter amid much fanfare at an
ASEAN ministerial conference in Singapore in July.
The country's secretive junta is under European Union
and United States sanctions over its long record of human
Lawmaker Marzuki Darusman, who was on the committee
that helped draft the ratification law, said Indonesia
must show "solidarity" with other member states
on the charter but it still wanted changes.
"Some members of the parliament feel that as a
big country we have been pressured to address the Myanmar
issue so that it will conform to international norms,"
"We have to show that ratification is not just
a formality... Non-compliance should not just be set aside,
ignored or allowed to happen without responsibility."
Among Indonesia's conditions was the establishment of
a rights body which "conforms to international standards"
and provision for the suspension of non-compliant members,
ASEAN should also consider the possibility of decision-making
by majority vote rather than consensus.
Asmara Nababan, head of the Centre for Democracy and
Human Rights in Jakarta, said the charter was a step forward
even if it needed improvements.
"This is a milestone for Indonesia and ASEAN and
it will put human rights more at the centre of the agenda,"
he told AFP.
"But there is a lot of work to do to make it more
effective in the promotion and protection of human rights
if you compare the region to Europe and the United States."