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ASEAN

Asia: NGOs display `lobby cretinism' over ASEAN human rights commission

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

October 25, 2009 -- The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is made up of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Brunei and Singapore, which are all authoritarian states. It also includes the semi-democratic Malaysia, along with the Philippines and Indonesia, which are more or less democratic. Would anyone expect a gathering of government leaders from these countries to set up a genuine human rights commission? Apparently, some NGOs from the region did think so.

However, they got snubbed. Not only did the governments decide to appoint the human rights commissioners themselves, they also refused to meet with half the NGO delegates, and allowed only Dr Surichai Wangaeo of Chulalongkorn University to speak on behalf of the NGO delegation. Who is Dr Surichai? He supported the 2006 military coup in Thailand and was an appointee to the military junta’s parliament. The Thai NGO team that was involved in so-called “civil society” discussions also included people who supported the military coup.

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