[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 30 July 2007, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Asean agrees on landmark charter
By Michael Barker
BBC News, Manila

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo with Asean foreign ministers - 30/07/07
Asean members hope to adopt the charter formally later this year
Ministers from South-East Asian countries have reached agreement on a landmark draft charter.

The document gives the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) a set of binding rules for the first time in the bloc's 40-year existence.

The agreement comes after nearly two years of deliberations among members.

It includes a contentious provision to set up a commission monitoring human rights in the region - despite strong misgivings from some Asean countries.

Credibility boost

With governments in the region running the gamut from fully-fledged democracies to a military dictatorship, finding consensus on a human rights commission was always going to be a tough sell.

Burma (Myanmar) - a country which has been heavily criticised for rights abuses in the past - had strongly opposed the commission right up to Monday's ministerial meeting in Manila.

It eventually gave grudging 11th-hour approval in the face of clamour from other members.

Diplomatic sources said Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam also had misgivings - fearing human rights probes could result in violations of the group's strict policy of non-interference in each others' affairs.

However the charter is seen as crucial for giving Asean - previously regarded as a mere talk shop - credibility and bargaining power on the world stage.

It will also help smooth the way for the group's aim of full economic integration.

The next step for the bloc - which groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - is to formally adopt the landmark charter at its summit in November.

Burma asked to speed up reforms
14 Jan 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Asian nations pledge closer ties
13 Jan 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Asean heads gather despite bombs
11 Jan 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Philippines postpones Asean talks
08 Dec 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: The Philippines
02 Aug 06 |  Country profiles

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific