Group proposes replacing Asean, citing body’s failure to uphold human rights, reform

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Asean has been around for over five decades, but the South East Asia Community said the former has not kept up 'with the times'.  — Reuters pic
Asean has been around for over five decades, but the South East Asia Community said the former has not kept up 'with the times'. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, May 12 — Former and current lawmakers from South-east Asia have called for the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) to be replaced, citing the regional body’s failure to uphold democracy and human rights.

Asean has been around for over five decades, but the group, the South East Asia Community (SEAC), said it has not kept up “with the times”.

In its place, SEAC has proposed a new multilateral organisation that focuses on inclusiveness and promotes representative democracy as a common ideal.

“The 10 Asean member states continue to have different political systems and despite adherence to the various United Nations Conventions pertaining to universal values,” it said in a statement.

“The majority of the people of Asean continue to suffer periods of oppression and authoritarianism,” it added.

SEAC’s censure of Asean comes amid mounting criticism of the body’s apparent inaction over recent developments in Myanmar, where clashes between pro-democracy groups and the military junta have led to the deaths of close to a thousand people.

Nearly all those killed are civilians, including women and children.

Despite some member states having publicly expressed concern about the situation there, there has been little follow through in terms of action.

Asean, established in 1967 as a regional mechanism to prevent disputes and resolve overlapping territorial claims in the Cold War period and to stem the spread of communism, adopts what it calls a “non-interference” policy.

This will change under the SEAC, the group suggested, as it proposed working mechanisms to solve rights-based disputes in areas like labour laws and fair elections through what it called a SEAC Court of Justice.

“The body will be an open participatory and inclusive community where universal values of democracy, freedom, human rights, social and economic justice are adhered to,” it said.

“To avoid the shortcomings of Asean, SEAC’s membership must be conditional upon a commitment to implement representative and participatory democracy that respects human rights and the rule of law,” it added.

“To reject the doctrine of non-interference and establish legalistic SEAC institutions, with a vision for closer integration and the progressive introduction of executive, legislative and judicial bodies of SEAC.”

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