The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday agreed to strengthen human rights protections [statement, PDF] during its annual summit. ASEAN Chairman Hun Sen [BBC backgrounder], who is also Prime Minister of Cambodia, proclaimed several new initiatives by ASEAN to protect human rights in southeast Asia, a region often criticized for human rights violations. Sen announced that ASEAN would focus on preventing human trafficking in southeast Asian nations as well as convening a conference called the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Women to help promote gender equality. In addition to human rights, the ASEAN summit also focused on building economic cooperation between southeast Asian countries. ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan[official profile] stated that he hoped that ASEAN would become an economic bloc similar to the EU [BBC report] by 2015.
Several southeast Asian nations have been subject to close scrutiny on human rights recently. On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the Philippines military to act on human rights abuses [JURIST report] and hold violators accountable. Last week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] urged the government of Cambodia [JURIST report] to give its full cooperation to the judges that will be appointed to investigate the genocide during Khmer Rouge regime [BBC backgrounder]. Two weeks ago, HRW reported [JURIST report] that Myanmar's government is continuing to commit violence against civilians. Earlier in March, a UN human rights expert called on Myanmar [JURIST report] to ensure that human rights were protected during the run-up to the April elections.