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Window closing on Asean Human Rights Declaration

Time is running out to rid the proposed ASEAN Human Rights Declaration of clauses that would restrict peoples’ rights rather than protect and enhance them, civil society groups said yesterday.

Nay Vanda, deputy head of the monitoring section of rights group Adhoc, said civil society groups needed more opportunities to consult with leaders on the wording of the declaration, which senior ministers are expected to introduce during the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh from November 18 to 20.

“Many terms and articles, like ‘public morality’ and ‘national and regional particularity’, are really concerning,” Vanda said after a press briefing to coincide with this week’s third anniversary of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), the body that has developed the declaration.

“The [declaration] can be a success for the government... if it is equal or higher than [the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights]. If it is lower, it can ruin the reputation of Cambodia.”

The only glimpse the public and NGOs have had of the proposed declaration was by way of a leaked draft that was criticised for containing the public morality clause and bowing to patriarchal and religious regimes that discriminated against women and girls.

Yuyun Wahyuningrum, senior adviser on ASEAN and human rights for Indonesian NGO coalition Human Rights Working Group, said a number of articles in the draft suggested the declaration had become too much about negotiating the national interests of various ASEAN states rather than improving human rights.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shane Worrell at shane.worrell@phonmpenhpost.com

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