The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) [official website] adopted its first ever Human Rights Declaration [text, PDF] at their annual summit on Sunday. The agreement has been widely criticized [UN News report] by human rights groups who expressed concern that the agreement allows for violations and does not do enough to protect fundamental rights. Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra praised [Bankok Post report] the resolution as an important step in the human rights process. Director General for ASEAN Cooperation at the Foreign Ministry I Gusti Agung Wesaka Puja also defended the declaration as a starting place to strengthen human rights protections, noting that it was not easy to garner a consensus from all 10 member nations on such an issue.
ASEAN has long worked to reform countries in Southeast Asia, a region that is often criticized for human rights violations. UN rights experts expressed concerns [JURIST report] with the human rights agreement earlier this week. In April ASEAN agreed at its annual summit to strive to strengthen human rights protections [JURIST reoprt] for its member states [ASEAN info page]. In 2009 it established [JURIST report] its first human rights commission, the Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, to offer human rights education and device for government agencies, develop regional norms, collect information from member states and perform other tasks to promote adoption of higher human rights standards in its member nations. The commission was created during Thailand's chairmanship [JURIST report] of ASEAN that year and determination of the commission's potential powers caused controversy within the organization.