ASEAN and human rights-PPT

March 6, 2009

Updated: ASEAN and human rights
Political Prisoners in Thailand: March 1, 2009

The Nation (1 March 2009: “ASEAN SUMMIT: ‘Uphold freedom of the press’”) carries a brief report on a statement by a small group of members of parliament in ASEAN on human rights.  Prachatai carries their declaration. The Nation report:

“A group of Asean parliamentarians yesterday formed a caucus on rights and free expression calling on Asean leaders to uphold press freedom. Members of parliament from Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand signed a declaration forming the caucus. They were Kraisak Choonhavan and Buranaj Smutharaks from Thailand, Yim Sovann from Cambodia, Djoko Susilo from Indonesia and Francis Pangilinan and Teodoro Casino from the Philippines.

“We believe that the dream of a true Asean community and the formation of an Asean Human Rights Body must recognise free expression, press freedom and people’s access to information as essential to human rights,” they said in the declaration.”We also urge our national and regional leaders to uphold the rights of the people of Asean, in particular their rights to inquire, express and participate on matters that affect their lives and societies.”

For the Thailand case, the signatories are both members of the Democrat Party, which PPT has shown to be engaging in an extensive campaign of censorship in the name of national security, reconciliation, and protection of the monarchy. Likewise, FACT has commented on increased censorhip of the internet. Buranaj earlier complained about foreign media reporting on Thailand (Nation, 10 January 2009: “Man of many talents”).

Given the Democrats past record, ASEAN’s blemished record on human rights (see Prachatai, 28 February 2009: “Behind the pomp, try to seek out Asean’s true nature”) and the not altogether clear record on freedom of expression of a number of the signatories, there is ample room for cynicism. At the same time, in amongst a lot of huffing and puffing by the ASEAN governments on human rights, while  activists were kept away from the ASEAN meeting (Bangkok Post, 28 February 2009: “Rights activists barred from Asean talks”), these parliamentarians deserve some credit. At least they have been prepared to make a public call for press freedom and freedom of expression.

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