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ASEAN human rights commission to begin today


ASEAN human rights commission to begin today

Photo: ASEAN

The Association of Southeast Asian Nation’s (ASEAN) Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights will begin its six-day annual meeting in Brunei-Darussalam today.

A key focus this week will likely be the recent violence following February’s military coup in Myanmar. Diplomatic efforts spearheaded by Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia to facilitate a resolution have been supported by key players—China, the US and the EU—in recent weeks.

ASEAN’s difficulty will be in finding consensus, particularly among authoritarian member-states. One-party states like Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand’s military-backed government are reluctant to set a precedent that could end one of ASEAN’s core principles of non-interference in the domestic affairs of member-states. This principle also explains 30 years of ASEAN’s hands-off approach to Myanmar’s previous military regime.

Expect internal disagreements arising from a clash of approaches this week. Non-intervention—likely favoured by the authoritarian members—will almost certainly facilitate an escalation of the crisis, as protesters in Myanmar show little sign of backing down despite the military killing over 500 people in recent weeks. Alternately, a limited approach focusing on restoring order is unlikely to quell unrest and potentially encourage further military crackdowns. However, seeking the junta’s recognition of the opposition risks their non-cooperation and exposing ASEAN’s limited options for recourse. Regardless, the threat of a destabilising humanitarian crisis spilling across the region’s borders will likely sway the bloc towards facilitating talks to de-escalate the violence.

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