EDITORIAL - Rights in Asean

EDITORIAL - Rights in Asean

(The Philippine Star) - April 14, 2021 - 12:00am

It might come as a surprise especially in the land of tokhang, but the Association of Southeast Asian Nations actually has its own Human Rights Declaration, enshrined in the ASEAN Charter.

Adopted in November 2012 in Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, the declaration was patterned by ASEAN after the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other global rights instruments.

The Philippines has invoked the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration to remind the military junta in Myanmar of its international commitments. The statement was issued as bodies continue to pile up in the unrest across Myanmar that started with the ouster of democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. This week the post-coup death toll of pro-democracy protesters climbed past 700.

The ASEAN rights declaration is impressively detailed, committing the 10-member bloc to cooperation in upholding civil, political, economic, social, cultural and development rights as well as the right to peace. It guarantees the presumption of innocence, protection from torture, and access to services such as education and reproductive health.

This region was organized by authoritarian leaders, among them dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and is hardly an exemplar of democratic ideals. The Philippines in particular has been under fire for gross human rights violations attributed to security forces under the Duterte administration.

Yet the killings in Myanmar are egregious; they deserve regional condemnation and must stop. There have been significant improvements in the rights situation in Southeast Asia, and respect for civil liberties has enhanced economic development. The Myanmar junta has seen the benefits to the country of moving toward an open society. It should not derail the progress with its ongoing great leap backward.

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