According to highly places sources attending drafting sessions, who asked
not to be named because they are authorized to do, after marathon discussion
over human rights ahead of the Asean annual meeting, the charter drafters
headed by Filipino retired ambassador, Rosario Manalo, agreed to advance the
proposed formulation to the Asean foreign ministers to determine whether to
adopt a body, organ or commission "to promote and protect human rights of
the people in Asean."
"The Asean foreign ministers have to decide whatever instrument or name to
be used," said one of the sources.
As it turned out the word "mechanism"--widely used in the press and among
the civil society organizations—has been completely ignored. The taboo word
often referred to the failed attempt of Asean to establish regional human
rights mechanism agreed in 1993 in Bangkok. Little progress has been made
since then except on issues and rights related women and child as well as
Core Asean members including Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand view a human
rights commission as an important pillar in constructing an ASEAN community
and also in compliance with the UN Human Rights Commission. The Asean
leaders agreed to set up security, economic, social and cultural communities
in 2015. The security community explicitly states that Asean must promote
Burma objected the establishment of a regional human rights body. Since its
admission in 1997, its membership has proved to be an embarrassment for
Asean as the grouping has to defend its member with track records of
political suppression, use of child labour and soldiers.
The first clean draft to be vetted by the ministers on Monday over their
formal meeting and retreat will be incomplete as the drafters still have to
meet several more times to wrap up the remaining chapters of the Asean
Charter. The charter has 12 chapters altogether dealing with the whole gamut
of transforming Asean into a law-binding organization. They have settled all
including the preamble except one chapter.
Chapter four is the remaining portion which deals with the organization of
Asean. The drafters need more time to make revision followed additional
comments made by the foreign ministers on Monday. So far, they have agreed
on three principal organs on the Asean Summit, Asean Executive Board and
Secretary-General of Asean and its secretariat. Asean Committee of Permanent
Representatives, the status of Asean Foundation, Asean Institute are among
the issues to be discussed.
The ministers will meet again at the end of September in New York when they
attend the UN General Assembly. They will vet the draft's revision before
sending the final one to the leaders for their deliberation. Under the
proposed charter, they will meet twice annually instead of one as currently
practice. The leaders would assist by Asean Executive Board which will
coordinate the three corresponding ministerial councils on security,
economic, social and culture.
The Asean leaders are expected to sign the charter at their summit meeting
in mid November, hosted by Singapore.
The charter drafting committee comprises mostly senior foreign ministry
officials from members countries with five senior officials, two Asean
director generals and two ambassadors at large and one retired former
By Kavi Chongkittavorn