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Role of New ASEAN Rights Body Questioned


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations signed a charter this week that includes human rights protections as one of its goals.

However, a confidential list of recommendations leaked today (Wednesday) by ASEAN officials suggests the organization is more likely to protect its member countries from external interference on human rights matters.

ASEAN's chairman, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, defended the recommendations, but said the terms of the documents still need to be negotiated.

The ASEAN charter, signed Tuesday, calls for the establishment of a human rights agency, but it will have no power to enforce rights standards.

Asian leaders have been divided particularly on how to respond to international criticism about member-nation Burma's human rights record, which has been under renewed scrutiny since a recent violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo said her country might not sign the ASEAN charter if Burma does not commit to democracy and release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

But several leaders, including Singapore's Lee, have rejected calls for sanctions or tough measures against Burma.

Information for this news is provided by ap and reuters.

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