ASEAN Charter

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON THE ASEAN CHARTER

Section A: ASEAN Charter

A1. What is the ASEAN Charter?

A2. Why is the ASEAN Charter important, and how will it affect me?

A3. What does the ASEAN Charter do?

A4. Will the ASEAN Charter help to resolve the Myanmar situation?

A5. When does the ASEAN Charter come into force?

A6. What potential impediments are there to a successful ASEAN Charter?

Section B: Human rights in the ASEAN Charter

B1. What are human rights?

B2. How are human rights important to me?

B3. What does the ASEAN Charter say about human rights?

B4. What will the ASEAN human rights body look like?

B5. When will the ASEAN human rights body be established?

A. ASEAN Charter

A1. What is the ASEAN Charter?

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established on 8 August 1967. It originally comprised five Member States, namely, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. ASEAN currently has ten Member States, namely, the five founding Member States and Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam.

ASEAN has traditionally been a loose, informal grouping without any constituting document or any legal personality. But as part of the Vientiane Action Programme adopted by ASEAN at the Tenth ASEAN Summit in Laos in November 2004, ASEAN agreed to work towards the development of an ASEAN Charter.

The Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Establishment of the ASEAN Charter in December 2005 and the Cebu Declaration on the Blueprint of the ASEAN Charter in January 2007 further developed the process of drafting the ASEAN Charter. The ASEAN Charter signed today marks the culmination of that process.

The ASEAN Charter is essentially the Constitution of ASEAN. Amongst other things, the ASEAN Charter sets out the guiding principles governing how ASEAN will conduct its affairs, confers legal personality upon ASEAN as a legal entity in its own right, establishes the organs through which ASEAN will act, and institutes a formal structure for decision-making.

A2. Why is the ASEAN Charter important, and how will it affect me?

The ASEAN Charter creates a framework within which ASEAN Member States can enter into substantive agreements on specific areas, such as economic integration, environmental protection and climate change, equitable development, transnational crime and security. An example of this is the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint, which sets out detailed timelines for greater integration of ASEAN’s economies. The structure and organs set up by the ASEAN Charter will play a critical role in ensuring the success of the Blueprint’s ambitious target of establishing the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015

As the Constitution of ASEAN that will set the rules for closer cooperation amongst Member States, the ASEAN Charter will inevitably affect all nationals and residents of ASEAN Member States in many spheres of their lives. While the effects may be indirect, they will nevertheless be tangible and profound.

A3. What does the ASEAN Charter do?

The ASEAN Charter is the Constitution of ASEAN. When it enters into force, the ASEAN Charter will do the following

(a) It will state the objectives and guiding principles of ASEAN, in a manner that is legally binding on the Member States;

(b) It will confer legal personality upon ASEAN as a legal entity, with a motto, flag, emblem, day of observance, and anthem;

(c) It will set out the rights and obligations of membership and The Chairman of ASEAN, and also institute a formal mechanism for the admission of new Member States;

(d) It will create the various organs of ASEAN through which ASEAN will act and operate, the attendant immunities and privileges of ASEAN and these organs and their officials, and the manner of determining the rules of procedures for such organs;

(e) It will formalize the decision-making processes to be adopted by ASEAN, as well as the three pillars of ASEAN via the creation of the three ASEAN Community Councils, namely the ASEAN Political-Security Community Council, the ASEAN Economic Community Council, and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Council;

(f) It will establish a formal dispute resolution procedure, for disputes between Member States;

(g) It will institute guidelines for ASEAN’s external relations with countries and other organizations and institutions;

(h) It will implement certain ancillary principles and rules, such as on budgeting and finance, administration and procedure, administrative matters such as working language, a periodic review five years after the ASEAN Charter enters into force, and the ability to hold of assets.

While the ASEAN Charter seeks to integrate the ASEAN Member States more closely, it will not create a Southeast Asian version of the European Union. The European Union is much more tightly integrated, both politically and economically, than ASEAN will be.

A4. Will the ASEAN Charter help to resolve the Myanmar situation?

This is unclear. The ASEAN Charter does contain statements that are potentially relevant to the resolution of the Myanmar situation:

(a) The Member States’ reiteration of their adherence to “the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms”, from ASEAN Charter, Preamble;

(b) The purposes of ASEAN including to ensure “the peoples and Member States of ASEAN live in peace with the world at large in a just, democratic and harmonious environment”, from ASEAN Charter, Article 1(4), and “to strengthen democracy, enhance good governance and the rule of law, and to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, with due regard to the rights and responsibilities of the Member States of ASEAN”, from ASEAN Charter, Article 1(7);

(c) The principles guiding the conduct of ASEAN and its Member States, which include “adherence to the rule of law, good governance, the principles of democracy and constitutional government”, from ASEAN Charter, Article 2(2)(h), “respect for fundamental freedoms, the promotion and protection of human rights, and the promotion of social justice”, from ASEAN Charter, Article 2(2)(i),and “upholding the United Nations Charter and international law, including international humanitarian law, subscribed to by ASEAN Member States”,ASEAN Charter, Article 2(2)(j).

On the other hand, the ASEAN Charter also contains repeated statements emphasizing the principles of sovereignty and non-interference. The Preamble itself mentions respect for “the principles of sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, non-interference, consensus and unity in diversity”. The principles of ASEAN set out in Article 2 also include:

(i) “respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity and national identity of all ASEAN Member States”, from ASEAN Charter, Article 2(2)(a);

(ii) “non-interference in the internal affairs of ASEAN Member States”

(iii) “respect for the right of every Member State to lead its national existence free from external interference…”

In the case of Myanmar, there may be a tension between the emphasis on human rights, democracy, good governance and rule of law, and the reiteration of sovereignty and non- interference.

It is therefore heartening that the Prime Minister of Singapore Mr. Lee Hsien Loong has recognised that “As ASEAN becomes more closely integrated, many issues will increasingly have transboundary and regional implications … The Charter recognizes that with growing interdependence, ASEAN will have to adjust its traditional non-intervention approach in areas where the common interest dictates closer cooperation. National interests will increasingly have to be balanced with regional and international interests. Non-intervention cannot mean no action or indifference.”

These statements sketch out a possible basis for ASEAN, as a grouping, to take an active role in the resolution of the Myanmar situation, while preserving the fundamental principles of sovereignty and non-interference in a realistic manner that recognizes the reality of growing regional interdependence.

A5. When does the ASEAN Charter come into force?

Although the ASEAN Charter has been signed by all Member States, it will come into force only after it has been ratified by all of them. The procedure for ratification varies from country to country. In the case of Singapore, a treaty is ratified by enacting such domestic legislation as is necessary to implement Singapore’s legal obligations under the treaty.

This is an area for concern because, so long as any Member State does not ratify the ASEAN Charter, it will not come into force. There is therefore a possibility of the ASEAN Charter not coming into force for an extended period of time, or even not at all. The case of the Defence Co- operation Agreement and Extradition Treaty between Singapore and Indonesia, which have been signed by the two governments but which appear unlikely to be ratified by the Indonesian legislature, illustrates this possibility. It is also unclear what ratification means for countries such as Myanmar, which does not have a functioning legislature or even a valid constitution in force.

At present, there is no stated timeline for procuring the Member States’ ratification of the ASEAN Charter. This leaves open the possibility of the ASEAN Charter being signed and yet not coming into force for a prolonged period. The Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo has recognised this and has called for all Member States to ratify the ASEAN Charter within one year from today, from The Straits Times, 18 November 2007, “Call for common stand on Myanmar”, and it would be helpful for this target to be accepted by all Member States.

Furthermore, the founding Member States, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, can set an example for the other Member States by ratifying the ASEAN Charter as soon as possible.

A6. What potential impediments are there to a successful ASEAN Charter?

First and foremost, as noted above in Question A5, there is an open question over when the ASEAN Charter will come into force. This is a real concern, given ASEAN’s past track record in implementing agreements and commitments. Singapore’s Ambassador-at-large Professor Tommy Koh has pointed out that “only about 30% of ASEAN’s agreements have been implemented”, calling it “not an acceptable record”, from Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release dated 16 November 2007, “Transcript of interview with Ambassador Tommy Koh by Channel News Asia”, accessed on 17 November 2007.

Secondly, even after the ASEAN Charter has come into force, there will remain challenges in practical implementation of its obligations, as many details remain to be agreed upon. There is therefore a chance that the ASEAN Charter will, for at least some time, remain a “paper tiger”, setting out objectives and goals that remain, for all purposes and effects, purely aspirational in nature in the absence of actual implementation

In this regard, the ASEAN Secretary-General will have a critical role to play. The ASEAN Charter mandates the Secretary-General to “facilitate and monitor progress in the implementation of ASEAN agreements and decisions, and submit an annual report on the work of ASEAN to the ASEAN Summit”, from ASEAN Charter, Article 11(2)(b).

The reference to “ASEAN agreements” would include the ASEAN Charter itself, and hence it would be helpful for the Secretary-General to implement a robust reporting system that clearly and explicitly details, on an annual basis, the areas in which any obligations under and/or objectives of the ASEAN Charter have yet to be met or accomplished, and the efforts taken by Member States to meet or accomplish such obligations and/or objectives. Such a regime could be based on the reporting regime set out in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), where a non-governmental committee issues an annual report on a government’s compliance with its obligations under CEDAW

Such a reporting regime by the Secretary-General could be invaluable, as it would then identify the areas where implementation of the ASEAN Charter are lagging, thereby encouraging ASEAN as a grouping to put in greater efforts to implement the ASEAN Charter.

Indeed, the Report of the Eminent Persons Group on the ASEAN Charter (EPG Report) had recognized that ASEAN’s problem is “one of ensuring compliance and effective implementation”, and had proposed that “ASEAN must have a culture of commitment to honour and implement decisions, agreements and timelines”, from the Report of the Eminent Persons Group on the ASEAN Charter, Executive Summary para.6. The absence of an explicit implementation schedule for the ASEAN Charter, while disappointing and ironic, can nevertheless be addressed by the proposed reporting system by the Secretary-General.

The ASEAN Charter also provides for a “serious breach of the Charter or non-compliance” to be referred to the ASEAN Summit for decision, from ASEAN Charter, Article 20(4). This means that the onus will be on the ASEAN Summit to address, in a serious fashion, any failure to make serious efforts to comply with and implement the ASEAN Charter.

Finally, the ASEAN Charter may not adequately address one of the key criticisms of ASEAN as a grouping, that The ASEAN Way, which emphasizes decision-making by consensus, results in ASEAN being ineffectual. Indeed, the EPG Report had noted that while consensus “should be preserved as the guiding principle … [it] should aid, but not impede, ASEAN’s cohesion and effectiveness.”, from the Report of the Eminent Persons Group on the ASEAN Charter, Executive Summary para.8.

The EPG Report then went on to recommend that “sensitive important decisions” should still be made by “consultation and consensus”, with the possibility of decision-making by majority vote (on either the basis of a simple, 2/3 or 3/4 majority) where consensus cannot be achieved. It also suggested the “flexible application of “ASEAN minus X” or “2 plus X” formula”, at the ASEAN Community Council level, from Report of the Eminent Persons Group on the ASEAN Charter, Executive Summary para.8.

While the ASEAN Charter retained consultation and consensus as a “basic principle” of decision- making in ASEAN, from ASEAN Charter, Article 20(1), with the ASEAN Summit to decide how a specific decision may be made where consensus cannot be achieved, from ASEAN Charter, Article 20(2), it leaves open the question of how the ASEAN Summit would make such a decision. As the ASEAN Charter does not explicitly include any provision for decision-making by majority vote when a consensus is not possible, it therefore remains possible to argue that the ASEAN Summit may make such a decision only by consensus.

Furthermore, the ASEAN Charter seems to envisage that more flexible formulae such as “ASEAN minus X” may be used only in the implementation of economic commitments, and even then only if there is a consensus to do so, form ASEAN Charter, Article 21(2).

There is therefore a possibility that the decision-making processes under the ASEAN Charter may prove to be insufficiently robust, to effectively address the criticism of ASEAN being ineffectual.

B. Human rights in the ASEAN Charter

B1. What are human rights?

The Encyclopaedia Britannica Online defines human rights as those “rights that belong to an individual as a consequence of being human”, accessed on 17 November 2007.

Human rights are not a modern or Western creation. For instance, the idea of rights, such as women’s rights, children’s rights and slaves’ rights, can be found in the Code of Hammurabi (ca. 1780 BC) in Mesopotamia.

Modern human rights as we understand them today began to be developed by 17 th and 18 th Century European philosophers like John Locke. The United States Revolution in 1776 was accompanied by the Virginia Declaration of Rights and later the United States Declaration of Rights, and the French Revolution of 1789 by the Declaration of the Rights of Man of the Citizen. All of these documents contained universal concepts of human rights and freedoms. These concepts were further developed by other European philosophers such as John Stuart Mill and Thomas Paine.

The principles of human rights are set out in documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (which, though unanimously passed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, is legally non-binding), and legally-binding treaties like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The more commonly known rights include

(a) the right to non-discrimination (Article 2 of the UDHR and Article 2 of the ICCPR);

(b) the right to life, liberty and security of person (Article 3 of the UDHR and Article 9 of the ICCPR);

(c) the right not to be held in slavery or servitude (Article 4 of the UDHR and Article 8 of the ICCPR);

(d) the right not to be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 5 of the UDHR and Article 7 of the ICCPR);

(e) the right to equality and equal protection of the law (Article 7 of the UDHR and Article 26 of the ICCPR);

(f) the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial (Article 11 of the UDHR and Article 14 of the ICCPR);

(g) the right to own property (Article 17 of the UDHR);

(h) the right to freedom of religion (Article 18 of the UDHR and Article 18 of the ICCPR);

(i) the right to freedom of opinion and expression (Article 19 of the UDHR and Article 19 of the ICCPR);

(j) the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association (Article 20 of the UDHR and Articles 21 and 22 of the ICCPR);

(k) the right to self-determination (Article 1 of the ICCPR); and

(l) the right to life (Article 6 of the ICCPR).

B2. How are human rights important to me?

Contrary to a common perception that human rights are abstract issues, human rights do play a critical role in daily life, in both economic and non-economic spheres. Whenever a person applies for or holds a job, the right to non-discrimination is involved. Whenever a person buys something, the right to own property is involved. Whenever a person goes to a place of worship, the right to freedom of religion is involved. Whenever a person reads or even writes to the newspapers, the right to freedom of opinion and expression is involved. Whenever a person gathers in a group with other persons for any reason, even if it is just for lunch, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association is involved.

For instance, human rights can play an important role in ensuring that a person is fairly treated at work. The Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) recognized this, in its recent press statement on the case of Mr. Andrew Toh, from Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs press statement,“Allegations against Singapore in the article, “UN antifraud team is in jeopardy of losing its funding”, Asian Wall Street Journal, 9 October 2007” dated 9 October 2007, accessed on 17 November 2007

Mr. Toh is the highest-ranking Singaporean official at the United Nations, but was recently disciplined and demoted as the result of a disciplinary proceeding against him. MFA noted that Mr. Toh had been denied the right to have his legal counsel present during interviews by the Procurement Task Force investigating alleged corruption in United Nations procurement, and hence his right to due process, which is a legal right grounded in the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which a person has had all the guarantees necessary for that person’s defence, from Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11. See also International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 14.

The Singapore Constitution also recognizes the importance of human rights, and entrenches certain rights as fundamental liberties, which have a special place in the Constitution and may be changed only by a 3/4 majority of Parliament. These entrenched rights are:

(a) the right not to be deprived of one’s life or personal liberty;

(b) the right against slavery and forced labour;

(c) the right to protection against retrospective criminal laws and repeated trials;

(d) the rights to equality before the law and equal protection of the law, and against discrimination;

(e) the right of citizens, against being banished or excluded from Singapore, and to freedom of movement within Singapore

(f) the rights of freedom of speech, assembly and association;

(g) the right of freedom of religion;

(h) the right against discrimination in relation to education, from the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, Part IV..

B3. What does the ASEAN Charter say about human rights?

The ASEAN Charter contains several references to human rights and related concepts.

Most importantly, Article 14(1) requires ASEAN to establish “an ASEAN human rights body”, so as to conform with the purposes and principles of the ASEAN Charter relating to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

These purposes and principles of the ASEAN Charter relating to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms can be found in the Preamble and Articles 1 and 2, as follows:

(a) The Preamble reiterates the ASEAN Member States’ adherence to “the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms”;

(b) Article 1 states the purposes of ASEAN, which include ensuring “the peoples and Member States of ASEAN live in peace with the world at large in a just, democratic and harmonious environment”, from ASEAN Charter, Article 1(4), and “to strengthen democracy, enhance good governance and the rule of law, and to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, with due regard to the rights and responsibilities of the Member States of ASEAN”, from ASEAN Charter, Article 1(7);

(c) Article 2 sets out the principles guiding the conduct of ASEAN and its Member States, which include “adherence to the rule of law, good governance, the principles of democracy and constitutional government”, from ASEAN Charter, Article 2(2)(h), “respect for fundamental freedoms, the promotion and protection of human rights, and the promotion of social justice”, from ASEAN Charter, Article 2(2)(i), and “upholding the United Nations Charter and international law, including international humanitarian law, subscribed to by ASEAN Member States”, from ASEAN Charter, Article 2(2)(j).

The reference in Article 2 to the United Nations Charter and international law is significant from a human rights perspective. Firstly, the United Nations Charter itself contains numerous references to human rights, including:

(i) stating that the purposes of the United Nations include “international cooperation … in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion”, from United Nations Charter, Article 1(3);

(ii) obliging the United Nations to promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion”, from United Nations Charter, Article 55(c).

Secondly, international law is the body of rules governing relations between states, as contained in legally binding agreements, treaties and conventions and in customary international law. Customary international law comprises state practices considered by states to be legally binding. For instance, the UDHR is technically not legally binding, but the principles set out in it are commonly accepted as forming an integral part of international law.

It is therefore clear that even though the ASEAN Charter does not explicitly state a body of human rights and fundamental freedoms that are to be applied by the ASEAN human rights body, Article 2 of the ASEAN Charter operates to import into the ASEAN Charter the principles set out in the United Nations Charter and applicable international law.

Member States will therefore have to, as part of their obligations under the ASEAN Charter, comply with the human rights principles explicitly set out in the United Nations Charter, as well as international law.

B4. What will the ASEAN human rights body look like?

This is presently unclear. Under Article 14(2) of the ASEAN Charter, the terms of reference of the ASEAN human rights body will be determined by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting.

As noted above (for Question A6), decision-making in ASEAN, including by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting, will likely to remain consensus-based. Furthermore, it may not be open to the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting to adopt a more flexible formula such as “ASEAN minus X” in relation to the terms of reference of the ASEAN human rights body, given that Article 21(2) appears to limit such flexible participation to only the implementation of economic commitments.

Across the ASEAN Member States, there is a broad diversity of positions on various human rights. For instance, only four ASEAN Member States (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand) currently have recognised national human rights institutions. Such divergences may therefore be difficult for the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting to arrive at a consensus on the terms of reference, in particular the jurisdiction and powers, of the ASEAN human rights body. This is especially so, in light of the repeated emphases on sovereignty and non-interference in the ASEAN Charter.Referred from ASEAN Charter, the Preamble and Articles 2(2)(a), 2(2)(e) and 2(2)(f).

In a 1999 concept paper, Dr. Vitit Muntarbhom, Professor at the Faculty of Law of Chulalongkorn University, proposed seven options for an ASEAN human rights mechanism, of which five are relevant to the concept of an ASEAN human rights body:

(a) an ASEAN Human Rights Commission, with a monitoring and recommendatory role but without any decision-making powers;

(b) an ASEAN Human Rights Court, with judicial powers to make binding decisions accompanied by sanctions against Member States;

(c) an ASEAN Human Rights Commission and an ASEAN Human Rights Court, each as outlined above;

(d) an ASEAN Human Rights Commission and an ASEAN Human Rights Committee of Ministers or Assembly of Heads of Government. The Commission would have powers as outlined above and would screen and channel cases to the Committee or Assembly. The Committee or Assembly would be empowered to take binding or “cogently persuasive” decisions against the Member State complained against; and

(e) an ASEAN Human Rights Commission, an ASEAN Human Rights Court and an ASEAN Human Rights Committee of Ministers or Assembly of Heads of Government, each as outlined above. The difference would be that the Committee or Assembly would represent an additional means of pressuring the Member State complained against. Referenced from Dr. Vitit Muntarbhom, “Towards an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism? A Concept Paper” (1999), written for the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism.

Dr. Vitit’s proposals provide some guidance on the possible permutations for the ASEAN human rights body, and could form a helpful basis for the work of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting on the terms of reference of the ASEAN human rights body.

Regardless of the shape or form taken by the ASEAN human rights body, its very existence will help to advance the cause of human rights in ASEAN. As the Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo recently pointed out, “whether or not it has teeth, the ASEAN human rights body will have the right to admonish, to criticize, to encourage. It will certainly have moral influence if nothing else.”, from The Straits Times, 18 November 2007, “Call for common stand on Myanmar”

Finally, as noted above (for Question B2), human rights are not an abstract concept and can have a highly relevant and tangible role in policy-making. The ASEAN human rights body is therefore not the only forum in which human rights will have a role in ASEAN. Instead, human rights will also play a key role in the deliberations of the respective ASEAN Community Councils on relevant issues.

For instance, human rights underpin the issue of migrant workers’ rights. As women, foreign domestic workers are protected under CEDAW. Both CEDAW and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) impose obligations on signatories to take measures against trafficking in women and children, from Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Article 6 and Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 35.The UDHR sets out rights related to employment and working conditions, such as the right to “just and favourable conditions of work”, from UDHR, Article 23(1).

These are issues falling into the jurisdiction of both the ASEAN Economic Community Council and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Council, which should take into consideration the human rights issues involved when discussing policies in these areas. Accordingly, any inability or delay in agreeing on the terms of reference of the ASEAN human rights body does not mean that human rights will play no role in ASEAN and decision-making by ASEAN.

B5. When will the ASEAN human rights body be established?

The ASEAN Charter will come into force when it has been ratified by all ASEAN Member States. Article 14 will accordingly become effective, and the process of determining the terms of reference of the ASEAN human rights body can commence, only at that time.

As with the ratification and implementation of the ASEAN Charter, there are no stated timelines for the determination of the terms of reference for the ASEAN human rights body. With the possibility of this process being a contentious one, it is imperative for ASEAN to set out timelines for the process, and the Secretary-General and civil society organizations to closely monitor progress.

Indeed, it would be extremely encouraging if ASEAN would direct the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting to begin its work on the terms of reference, even before the ASEAN Charter enters into force. That would be a strong signal and a powerful statement of intent on ASEAN’s commitment to the establishment of the ASEAN human rights body.

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