[JURIST] The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) [official website] announced Friday the establishment [press release, PDF] of a new commission on human rights for the region. The body will be known as the Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and was introduced [opening remarks] by Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva [BBC profile] at the annual ASEAN three-day summit in Cha-am, Thailand. The AICHR will be supported by financial contributions from the ASEAN member states, and ASEAN members have already pledged to provide $200,000 for the commission's first year. ASEAN leaders said the purpose of the body was to promote and protect of human rights in Southeast Asia:
The body was mandated to promote and protect human rights by promoting public awareness and education, providing advice services and capacity building to government agencies and ASEAN bodies, developing regional norms, obtaining information from Member States, engaging with stakeholders and other institutions, conducting studies on thematic issues as well as preparing reports to the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting, in accordance with its Terms of Reference (TOR) prepared by the High Level Panel and approved by ASEAN Foreign Ministers in July.
Despite its mission, some human rights activists have criticized [Irrawaddy report] the new body, saying that it may not be independent enough to be effective.
In February, ASEAN leaders met to discuss [JURIST report] the creation of a human rights commission, which was called for by the November 2007 ASEAN Charter [text, PDF; JURIST report]. Article 14 of the charter provides for the establishment of an ASEAN human rights body in order to promote and protect human rights and other fundamental freedoms in member states. In July 2007, ASEAN members agreed in principle [JURIST report] to the creation of the human rights body, though Myanmar [JURIST report], Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam [JURIST news archives] have objected to its creation.