new ASEAN charter
JAKARTA, Jan 7, 2008 (AFP)
— Singapore became the first ASEAN member on Monday
to formally complete its ratification of the political
and economic group's new landmark charter aimed at transforming
Singapore handed over its "instrument of ratification"
to former Thai foreign minister Surin Pitsuwan, who accepted
it in his first official act as secretary general at the
ASEAN secretariat in the Indonesian capital.
Surin assumed the top post at the 10-member Association
of Southeast Asian Nations, taking over from Singapore's
Ong Keng Yong, during the same ceremony.
"The charter is a crucial milestone in ASEAN's
history," Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo
said in a letter to Surin, referring to the pact signed
by members in November last year.
"It is crucial that we maintain the momentum in
taking ASEAN into its next phase of development,"
The charter aims to commit the region's disparate nations
to promote human rights and democratic ideals and sets
out the principles and rules for members.
It also transforms ASEAN, 40 years after its creation,
into a legal entity, which will give the group greater
clout in international negotiations.
The charter was the result of a long, controversial drafting
process that saw some of the strong recommendations from
ASEAN elder statesmen watered down or dropped, including
provisions on member sanctions and expulsion.
However, the charter commits ASEAN members "to strengthen
democracy, enhance good governance and the rule of law,
and to promote and protect human rights and fundamental
It also requires members to keep the region free of nuclear
weapons, ease poverty, protect the environment and work
toward an integrated market that allows for free flow
of goods, services, investments and professionals.
"I think it's going to be good news all over ASEAN
and all over the international community that a member
of ASEAN has already committed itself to the... charter,"
Surin told a press briefing after the ceremony.
He said that he would be lobbying leaders of other members
to join Singapore and had already had an audience in Hanoi
where he made his "first appeal to an ASEAN leader".
Surin said ASEAN wanted to celebrate adopting the charter
in November in Thailand in the same place outside the
resort town of Pattaya where the bloc's original declaration
was signed in 1967.
"They want to repeat that august gathering, but
this time it will be 10 countries rather than five,"
The charter will come into effect 30 days after the 10th
member informs ASEAN that it has been ratified domestically.
ASEAN's original five members were Indonesia, Malaysia,
the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Brunei, Cambodia,
Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam joined later.