[JURIST] Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) [official website] agreed Tuesday to a new charter that will unite members into an economic bloc similar to the European Union, but faced criticism for the charter's weak stance on human rights. Article 14 of the charter [PDF text] establishes a body to monitor human rights in the region, but human rights advocates have noted that the body will not have authority to issue sanctions against member states found to have violated human rights. Critics have also been skeptical of allowing military-ruled Myanmar to join the charter [JURIST report], citing the country's poor human rights record.
In July, ASEAN leaders agreed in principle to establish a human rights body, a move initially opposed by Myanmar. Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam had also sought to delay the creation of the human rights body. Last March, ASEAN officials acknowledged that there had been little progress in efforts [JURIST report] to establish a human rights body within the organization. In December 2005, members agreed [declaration] to draft the group's first charter. AP has more.