Rights Groups Urge ASEAN to do More to Protect Human Rights བོད་སྐད།

Rights groups are urging the Association for Southeast Asian Nations to do more to protect human rights, especially in military-ruled Burma.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday in Bangkok, human rights activists called on members to use ASEAN's newly established human rights body to improve conditions in the region.

Activists applauded ASEAN for creating the human rights body, which was officially established late last year, but say that so far it appears unwilling to take on human rights violators like Burma's military rulers.

ASEAN leaders will hold their annual summit in Thailand's resort town of Hua Hin next week. The regional issue of Burmese boat people is expected to discussed during the meetings.

Rights activists say ASEAN needs to address the root cause of the issue, which they say is a lack of democracy and human rights in Burma.

Burma is a member of the 10-nation body.

Last December, ASEAN approved a charter that includes commitments to the principles of democracy, and mandated the establishment of a human rights body.

It is unclear, however, how aggressive the human rights body will be in upholding its mandate.

One of ASEAN's fundamental principles is noninterference in the internal affairs of its member states. Some are concerned that the body could use this as an excuse to avoid condemning human rights abusers.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.