ASEAN Rights Panel
Aims to Finish Work Next Year
SINGAPORE, Singapore -- A panel that will draft terms
of reference for a Southeast Asian human rights body aims
to complete its work within a year, a regional official
Each member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) will nominate two people to join the 20-member
panel, said the official.
He said the panel hopes to complete its work in time
for submission to an annual meeting of the group's 10
foreign ministers in Bangkok about one year from now.
"The terms of reference for the human rights body
hopefully would be ready for submission to the ASEAN ministerial
meeting next year," the official said.
On the example of those who could join the panel, one
country will likely nominate an ambassador and an academic
who specializes in human rights, he said.
The official was speaking after senior regional officials
met with the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism,
a coalition of experts, non-governmental representatives,
officials, and human rights commissioners.
Their talks came ahead of the annual foreign ministers'
meeting which begins in Singapore Sunday night.
Singapore's foreign ministry, which will chair the meeting,
said in a statement that during their gathering the ministers
intend to meet with the panel which will draft the rights
body's terms of reference.
At their annual summit last year in Singapore, ASEAN
leaders signed a charter which committed member states
to notions of democracy and human rights and for the first
time set out principles and rules for the group.
Under the charter, a human rights body would be established
in a region that includes countries with poor human rights
records, such as Myanmar.
Activists fear ASEAN, which cherishes a policy of non-interference
in domestic affairs of members, could establish a toothless
Tommy Koh, of Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
said last month there was a division within ASEAN between
Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, which
have national rights commissions, and Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia