[JURIST] Myanmar signed on [ceremony speech] to a new Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) [official website] charter Monday, despite other ASEAN members' criticism [statement text] of the country's human rights record and continued detention of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The charter [PDF text] was designed to create stronger economic and security ties within the region, and Article 14 establishes a body to monitor human rights in member countries. Myanmar's inclusion in the in charter has long been controversial because of its human rights record, and critics have said that even the rights panel will not have authority [JURIST reports] to issue sanctions against member states found to have violated human rights. During ASEAN's 41st Ministerial Meeting [official website] on Sunday, the members criticized Myanmar for holding Suu Kyi and other political prisoners:
The Foreign Ministers expressed their deep disappointment that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's detention under house arrest had been extended by the Myanmar Government. They repeated the call by ASEAN Leaders for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political detainees, as part of Myanmar's national reconciliation process. The Foreign Ministers reiterated their view that the Myanmar Government should engage in a meaningful dialogue with all political groups, and work towards a peaceful transition to democracy in the near future.At the end of the meeting, the ministers issued a joint statement [text] saying the group would remain engaged with Myanmar despite the problems, but critics expressed doubt [AFP report] that the country would uphold the human rights standards included in the charter, especially if it would not face sanctions for infractions. AP has more. The Canadian Press has additional coverage.
In November 2007, Singaporean human rights group SG Human Rights [advocacy website] called on ASEAN [JURIST report] to make the human rights section of its proposed charter into a separate treaty because of Myanmar's record and initial resistance to the rights provisions. Others outside the region have called on the group to suspend the country's participation entirely until conditions improve. Much of the international attention to Myanmar's human rights conditions is due to Suu Kyi, who has spent 12 of the past 18 years in prison or under house arrest for alleged violations of an anti-subversion law [text]. The military junta extended [JURIST report] Suu Kyi's house arrest into a sixth year in May, causing an international outcry and demonstrations by her supporters.