The ASEAN Human
Rights Body: MARUAH Organizes Public Forum
The U.N.’s work on human rights issues worldwide remains
relevant but the ASEAN human rights body, once created,
can provide an alternative in addressing violations in the
region. In order to raise public consciousness on the ASEAN
human rights body in the city-state,
MARUAH Singapore, with the support of the Asia-Europe
Foundation, held a forum
on June 11, 2008.
Prof. Vitit shares his thoughts on the ASEAN human
Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, co-chair of the Working
Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism (Working Group),
gave a background on the U.N. and ASEAN.
On ASEAN, he reminded the audience that it was not primarily
a human rights organization but a political body with
a bigger impetus for economics. “In spite of this,
ASEAN has the potential to address human rights issues
in creative and innovative ways,” he said.
An opportunity for the regional bloc to do so is with
the creation of the ASEAN human rights body, which is
promised for in the ASEAN
Charter. Prof. Vitit, who is also the U.N. special
rapporteur on human rights issues in North Korea, said
that a regional mechanism can voice out the region's human
rights concerns more forcefully and articulately. In addition,
it can “provide more resources” when national
systems are unable to offer remedies and because the U.N.
“is so far away”.
A lively discussion with academics, civil society activists,
students, government officials and diplomats ensued on
topics as varied as: if the ASEAN way of deciding by consensus
would be a stumbling block for the creation of the human
rights body, the manner by which it can address human
rights issues from the ground, and how it will be funded.
On the latter, Prof. Vitit pointed out that ASEAN had
the resources and that “it just needs political
will and proper allocation”.
A full house listens to Prof. Vitit's lecture.
The forum was organized by MARUAH, a group of individuals
who have made a commitment to inform and facilitate, from
a Singaporean perspective, the establishment of an ASEAN
human rights mechanism. It is the Singapore focal point
for the region-wide Working Group.
Read more about the forum on the ASEAN human rights body
from the MARUAH
Singapore website, the ASEF
website, and The