BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - Human Rights advocates said Feb. 23 they were optimistic
about the greater attention given to human rights by the government of Prime Minister
Chuan's call on Feb. 22 for Southeast Asian nations to draw up human rights guidelines
and his decision last week to welcome a human rights mission of eight Nobel laureates
are clear steps forward, said pro-democracy activist Gothom Arya.
Gothom is an engineering professor at Bangkok's Chulalong-korn University.
Thongpai Thongpao, a prominent human rights lawyer and winner of Southeast Asia's
prestigious Magsaysay Public service award, said: "When the prime minister speaks
out like this, it means real progress for our country."
Chuan's is the first elected government in Thailand since pro-democracy demonstrations
last spring forced the resignation of a military-dominated regime.
In a speech Feb. 22 at a conference on relations among Southeast Asian countries,
Chuan said the region should promote democracy.
"Linking very closely with democracy is human rights," he added. "It
is high time that we countries in Southeast Asia stopped acting defensively on the