A group of liberal lawmakers from Asean nations meeting in Singapore this week will focus on Cambodia and Myanmar’s human rights record, with MPs saying the rights of Southeast Asians were “under threat” from the bloc’s “destructive non-interference principle.”
Members of Asean agree to a principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other members states, which the lawmakers say allows members to avoid criticism for their poor human rights records.
Charles Santiago, the head of Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and a Malaysian MP, said the rule meant members states were “unwilling and unable to take a stand against violations.”
“This lack of action must end – human rights should take center stage in Singapore next week.
“Human rights are under threat throughout Southeast Asia. ASEAN’s destructive non-interference principle means that the bloc has been both unwilling and unable to take a stand against violations,” he said.
“Asean leaders cannot let the Cambodian government simply get away with dismantling democracy. They must push Prime Minister Hun Sen to end his crackdown on dissent and hold new, genuinely free and fair elections,” he added.
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party won all 125 seats in parliament in an election in July. Prior to the vote, the country’s main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, was banned and its leader, Kem Sokha, jailed on treason charges. In the year leading up to the polls, the CPP “increased repressive tactics against opponents, including by dismantling what little remained of independent media, and harassing and jailing rights activists,” the APHR said in a statement.
It added that the charges against Sokha were “politically motivated” and that concessions from Hun Sen since the vote were “piecemeal”.
Phay Siphan, a government spokesman, rejected the comments, saying they were the “devil’s work against Cambodia.”
“He has no right to meddle in the issue. Asean does not have a parliament, yet, just an association. This is just a mad idea.”
“They are the allies of rebels,” he said of APHR. “Whatever he said are demonic ideas against peace and independence and against the Asean principle of non-interference in other countries’ affairs.”