Monday, 19 October 2009

Thailand blazes trail for human rights

Published: 19/10/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thailand will launch Asean's first major push into the protection of human rights at the body's summit this weekend.

Thailand, as host of the 15th Asean summit at Hua Hin and Cha-am, will spearhead the inauguration of the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), the adoption of a declaration on climate change, and draft a declaration on education cooperation.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Asean should become a "community of action" which was able to act decisively.

All 10 leaders from the Asean region including Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India, will convene for the summit to be in Phetchaburi's Cha-am district and Prachuap Khiri Khan's Hua Hin district from Friday to Sunday.

Among the meetings at the summit, the inauguration of the AICHR is expected to be the highlight.

The AICHR will serve as the region's main body in promoting and protecting the human rights of the peoples of Asean, particularly children, women, the elderly and people with disabilities. Its first, informal meeting will be held at the summit.

In addition, Asean foreign ministers will meet with the High Level Legal Experts Group, set up to assist Asean settle disputes, to discuss progress on the Dispute Settlement Mechanisms (DSM).

The DSM will help resolve disputes according to the rules and regulations under the three pillars of the Asean Charter only. It will not resolve disputes between states.

The dispute over the Preah Vihear temple on the border between Thailand and Cambodia will not be included in this DSM, said Asean Affairs Department director-general Vitavas Srivihok.

Mr Vitavas also said the Asean ministers would sign an agreement on the grouping's privileges and immunities.

Other issues affecting the people's well-being, including food and energy security, financial stability, pandemics and disaster management, will also be discussed.

Asean leaders will also take the opportunity of the summit to meet with representatives of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly and Asean Youth and Asean Civil Society Organisations.

Mr Vitavas said the US$1.2 billion (40billion baht) Chiang Mai Initiative regional fund to help countries which face a liquidity crunch could not be launched at this summit but leaders do intend to finalise it this year.

It is possible finance ministers might hold a back-to-back meeting with Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation delegates in Singapore next month or hold a special meeting in Thailand in December, Mr Vitavas said.

At least 42 agreements will be signed during the summit, he said.

On the economic front, the Commerce Ministry will invite representatives from the region's car industry to discuss the promotion and strengthening of the industry during the Asean Economic Ministers meeting, Trade Negotiations Department director-general Nuntawan Sakuntanaga said.

Mrs Nuntawan said the AEM would sign a memorandum of understanding with China on the establishment of an Asean-China centre on intellectual property.

The summit will announce the elimination of tariffs on products under the normal track of the Asean-China free trade agreement and the Asean-Korea FTA as well as the announcement of the entry into force of the Asean-Australia-New Zealand FTA, she said.

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