Human rights standards across the region will be on the agenda this month as foreign leaders meet in Phnom Penh for the 45th Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
The five-day conference will include collaboration with the Asean Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), which will submit a final draft of the body’s human rights declaration under guidelines from the foreign ministers.
The drafting process came under fire in May when the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus called on the commission to delay the draft declaration pending more inclusive and transparent consultations with civil society and stakeholders. As Southeast Asia continues to go through rapid political and economic development, human rights abuses remain an issue. Ethnic tensions in Myanmar were highlighted last month when riots between Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists broke out in the country’s north. Vietnam has also been a talking point for foreign leaders over its continued imprisonment of human rights activists and restrictions on the free flow of information. In a region beset by human rights abuses, the need for strong leadership on such issues is clear, yet the AICHR has been roundly criticised for its lack of transparency and demonstrable progress.