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Senate ratifies Asean charter

October 7, 2008 4:31pm
MANILA, Philippines - The Senate on Tuesday afternoon ratified the charter of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, two months before its summit in Bangkok, Thailand.

Sixteen senators voted for the ratification, with only Minority Floor Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr opposing it, saying he does not trust the government of Myanmar. There was no abstention.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, head of the committee on foreign relations, had been pushing for the ratification of the Asean charter, noting that the Philippines is among the three Asean member-states that are yet to act on it despite the fact that it was the first to propose its creation in 1970s.

The other member-states who are yet to ratify the Asean charter are Thailand and Indonesia. Asean has 10 member-states.

On Monday, Pimentel said the Asean charter should be used as an effective mechanism for restoring democracy, peace and reconciliation in Myanmar, where the civil liberties of the Burmese people continue to be suppressed by the iron rule of a well-entrenched military junta.

He said the charter apparently lack provisions compelling member-states to adhere to fundamental principle of respect for human rights.

Pimentel lamented that Myanmar has been remiss in complying with its commitment as an Asean member-state to take concrete steps towards the restoration of democracy and the holding of free elections in that country.

He added that the ruling junta has conveniently reneged on such commitment in the absence of any sanctions from the Asean due to its policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs of member-states.

Pimentel asked whether the regional grouping is following a correct and credible policy by not sanctioning Myanmar considering that "in this time an age, human rights are no longer the concern of particular countries because these are rights that transcend boundaries of nations."

"If we adopt the Asean Charter, as proposed, what is going to happen to our stand that all countries in Asean must recognize and protect human rights and no member-state can avail of the excuse that this is interference in our national affairs?" he said. - Amita Legaspi, GMANews.TV
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