MANILA, Philippines – United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday, November 13, that the UN wants to work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to strengthen the regional bloc's human rights body.
“In line with the 2030 agenda and Sustainable Development Goals, the principles of democratic governance, rule of law and respect for human rights, the United Nations stands ready to cooperate with you in strengthening the ASEAN Inter-government Commission on Human Rights,” Guterres said in his opening remarks during the 9th ASEAN-UN Summit Monday evening.
According to its website, the decades-old commission “reflects ASEAN’s strong commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
This comes as several ASEAN countries face human rights-related controversies. Human Rights Watch (HRW) deputy director for Asia Phelim Kine earlier told Rappler that the topic has consistently been out of the regional bloc's “policy portfolio”. (READ: The Deafening Silence of ASEAN on Human Rights Violations)
Host country Philippines has been in the global headlines due to President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war that has since resulted in thousands of deaths. (READ: Most Filipinos believe EJKs happen in war on drugs – poll)
A military junta continues to rule Thailand. Human rights defenders are being targetted in Vietnam. There is also a crackdown on the opposition and the free press in Cambodia.
Myanmar is also in hot water for the violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine, which the UN has dubbed as “ethnic cleansing”. Myanmar de facto leader State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has been largely tight-lipped on the issue.
“I cannot hide my deep concern with the dramatic [exit] of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh. It is a worrying escalation in the protracted tragedy and a potential source of instability in the region and radicalization,” said Guterres.
In being “critical to reverse the (Rohingya) tragedy, Guterres called for “constructive approaches” from ASEAN member-states in providing humanitarian support to the minority in Rakhine.
The UN head also vowed to provide technical aid to these countries in combatting transnational organized crime like the drug trade and trafficking in persons through policies that promote human rights. – Rappler.com