Phnom Penh -(The Nation/ANN) – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is expected to have its Human Rights Declaration as a guideline to promote and protect basic rights in the region by late this year, a senior diplomat said.

Foreign Ministers of the Asean opened a discussion today with representatives of the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) on a draft of Asean Human Rights Declaration.

Key issue in the discussion was that Asean regarded human rights as a “universal” principle but many members might preserve their regional or national “particularity” or human rights protection.

Member countries of the group expected to see the Asean human rights instrument to meet international standard, no less than the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, said Thai Foreign Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow.

As Asean members were parties to the United Nations human rights declaration, it did not make any sense for the group if its own human rights instrument was lower than international standard, he said.

The AICHR was mandated to develop an Asean Human Rights Declaration with a view to establishing a framework for human rights cooperation through various Asean conventions and other instruments dealing with human rights.

The document would reflect aspirations of the Asean to be a people-centric organisation and commitment to promote and protect human right, according to Sihasak.

The foreign ministers in the meeting might consider the draft and would assign senior officials of the group to work on it together with the AICHR representatives before submitting the declaration to the leaders’ summit in November this year.

From Thailand’s position, the senior officials would not scrutinise the draft of human rights declaration but would facilitate the AICHR to reach its objective, Sihasak said.

AICHR may need to consult with all stakeholders in the Asean including civic society, sectoral bodies of the group to listen to their opinions on the matters, he said. –Supalak Ganjanakhundee in Phnom Penh/The Nation