ASEAN sign human rights pact, calls for South China Sea hotline

Featured - November 19th, 2012
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Southeast Asian leaders adopted a landmark human rights pact on Sunday despite calls for a further review of loopholes in the declaration.

Leaders of the 10-member regional bloc signed the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration during their annual summit, in Phnom Penh, reflecting their commitment to promote and protect human rights in the face of territorial disputes and sectarian violence in the region, AFP reports.

The non-binding declaration calls for an end to longstanding issues such as torture, arbitrary arrests and other rights violations, in accordance to “democracy, rule of law and good governance”.

It adds that the “realization of human rights must be considered in the regional and national context bearing in mind different political, economic, legal, social, cultural, historical and religious backgrounds”.

Washington expressed concerns that the declaration “falls short of international standards”, while rights groups said that conditions could be used to justify violations and allow atrocities to continue.

Still, ASEAN diplomats lauded the declaration as a “milestone despite its imperfections”, saying it will help cement democratic reforms in countries such as Myanmar.

Wunna Maung Lwin, Myanmar’s top diplomat, told AP that his country welcomes the declaration and will abide by it. “It’s a very significant step that has been taken by the ASEAN,” he said.

Meanwhile, leaders have also called for a hotline with China on Saturday aimed at easing maritime tensions. The hotline will pave the way for urgent consultations and coordination in the advent of any incident or misunderstanding, ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan told AFP.