So Asean, the number one south-east Asian talk-fest, has just launched its shiny new “intergovernmental commission on human rights” (hereafter AICHR). The Thai PM called it “a significant milestone in the evolution of Asean” – which is kind of true, inasmuch as they’ll now have a dedicated group spouting non-binding and unenforceable platitudes about human rights.
But the commission didn’t exactly have an auspicious birth. Sez the AP (via the South China Morning Post, emphasis added):
A shadow was immediately cast over the body when the governments of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and the Philippines rejected members of civil society groups from the their countries [that] they had been scheduled to meet[…].
The governments said they would avoid the dialogue if the five activists were present[…]. Instead, Singapore and Myanmar flew in substitutes from government-sponsored agencies.
It warms my heart to see Singapore standing up for human rights… specifically, the rights of the leaders of the Burmese military junta to carry on running the country into the ground. (Singapore and Burma, sitting in a tree: pre-vi-ous-ly on J-R-E.)
Incidentally (because I’ve gone three whole weeks without any gratuitous ST-bashing), Pravda’s coverage of AIHCR’s birth lives up to their usual standard of journalistic excellence. The middle finger treatment of the “civil society groups” doesn’t even rate a mention, and the news itself is buried on pages A36 and A37.
They interviewed a former Asean secretary-general – Ong Keng Yong, a career diplomat (is ‘apparatchik’ the right word?) from Singapore. He seemed to think that sixteen years(!) is a reasonable length of time to set up a committee, and that it should only focus on “those areas that have reached consensus among Asean members, such as the rights women and children and migrants”.
I’m not sure if this is code for “if anyone even mouths the words ‘Aung San Suu Kyi’ we’ll kick their arse out to the kerb”, but it sure sounds like it.
That said, they also gave half a page to Dr. Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who tells it like it is:
It is clear to [Dr. Pavin] that AICHR will not investigate or prosecute human rights violations, but will take a “constructive and non-confrontational approach” to promote and protect human rights. Dr Pavin says: “If you want to be effective, you should have punishment. If not, who will listen to you?”
He also expresses disappointment that there is no provision for Asean members to appoint human rights experts to sit on the commission.
But as always, Pravda gives equal time to both sides of the issue…
Calling for some patience with Asean, [Dr. Pavin] says that some of its behaviour might not be easily understood by the outside world, especially in the West. Asean has its own way of doing things, especially with regard to the contentious issue of human rights, he adds.
There is nothing contentious about this. The Burmese military stole the 1990 election, and now they are thieving from the country’s coffers – but Asean, with its “non-interference policy” that they lifted from Star Trek, is too pissweak to call them out on it.
The reason we in the West “don’t understand Asean’s behaviour” is because Asean’s behaviour gives legitimacy to a bunch of kleptomaniacal thugs.