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From commitment to compliance: ASEAN's human rights regression?
The Pacific Review, Volume: 32, Issue: 3, Pages: 365 - 394
Swansea University Author: Alan Collins
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Whether it is the persecution of the Rohingya, the disappearance of human rights activists, especially in Vietnam and Cambodia, the general limiting of freedom of speech across the region, including in two of the more liberal-minded states (Thailand, Philippines), or the resumption of the arbitrary...
|Published in:||The Pacific Review|
Taylor and Francis
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Whether it is the persecution of the Rohingya, the disappearance of human rights activists, especially in Vietnam and Cambodia, the general limiting of freedom of speech across the region, including in two of the more liberal-minded states (Thailand, Philippines), or the resumption of the arbitrary use of the death penalty, also in one of the more liberal-minded states (Indonesia), Southeast Asia can be said to be facing a human rights crisis. This crisis coincides with regression in the region’s democratic politics. While marked most dramatically by the 2014 military coup in Thailand, in Cambodia the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, was dissolved in November 2017 and more than 100 party members were banned from politics for five years thus leaving the government with no significant competitor ahead of elections in 2018. The populist Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, has encouraged extra-judicial killings and intimated that journalists could be assassinated. In Myanmar, where a landslide election victory in 2015 propelled Nobel Peace Prize Laurette Aung San Suu Kyi to a position of leadership, the military remain deeply entrenched in the country’s political institutions and a barely disguised ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya from Rakhine State has unfolded. This human rights crisis is though occurring at a time when ASEAN has never been so interested in human rights. After a lengthy period of time in which ASEAN either ignored, or paid lip service to human rights, the Association has created a human rights body – the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) – and adopted an ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD). These developments have taken place within a broader context of making ASEAN more people-centred as it progresses along its community building project. How then are we to understand this apparent contradiction between an increasing interest in human rights at the regional level and a regression in political freedoms amongst the member states, and, what are the implications for the direction of travel in turning an ASEAN commitment to human rights to compliance with human rights?
ASEAN, AICHR, human rights, Spiral Model, norms
College of Arts and Humanities