5 Hum. Rts. Defender 1 (1996)

handle is hein.journals/hurighdef5 and id is 1 raw text is: Humn lights io lander
THE UNIVERSITY OF
NEW SOUTH WALIS
Diplomacy Training Program
March 1996, Volume 5, Number 1
Seqnel to Asia-Enrope Sunmit:
A Hnman Rights Agenda for Asia
Jose Ramos-Horta*

When leaders of the fifteen nation
the European Union (EU) met w
their East Asian counterparts
Bangkok on 1-2 March, human rig
and environment were not on
official agenda. But they inevita
surfaced, as governments of
region could not ignore Asian pu
opinion demanding the inclusion
human rights and environment
the agenda of all political and tr
meetings in the region.
The November 1995 Asia-Pac
Economic Conference meeting
Osaka was preceded by a three-
parallel gathering in Kyoto of
several hundred labour lead-
ers and human rights and
environment advocates from
the region demanding that
these issues be addressed by
the APEC leaders. Likewise,
more than one hundred non gove
mental organisations (NGOs) ga
ered before the Asia-Europe sum
to discuss issues likely to be shun
by the Heads of State. The people
Asia, after all are the victims
human rights abuses and are see
their cities, villages and for
destroyed by a collusion of multi
ionals and local elites.
Human rights are not Western inv
tions. For thousands of years, c
cepts of human rights and jus
have been articulated in the tea
ings of the major Eastern philos
hies and religions. Asian elites
reject universality of human rig
democracy and the rule of law
pretend that these are Europ
impositions are giving too m

s of
ith
in
hts
the
bly
the
blic
of
on
ade
ific
in
lay

credit to the Europeans. They betray
the rich Asian catalogue of values
that is deeply enshrined in the teach-
ings of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism
and Confucianism.
The Western leaders who gathered in
Bangkok feared accusations of lectur-
ing the Asians on democracy and
human rights. They should not have
been fearful. Asians have fought and
died for these values for centuries,
against European colonists, against
Japanese occupation and now against
their own tyrants, often far worse
than the former colonial powers.

standing and encouragement by the
EU.
Outside ASEAN, two countries that
stand out as appalling human rights
violators are China and Burma. The
Burmese people have suffered for too
long under a brutal military olig-
archy and have shown enormous
courage and determination in the
fight for democracy. The EU must
resolutely support the democratic
forces in Burma under the leadership
of the Nobel laureate Daw Aung San
Suu Kyi.
Of the ASEAN partners,

... governments of the region could not   Indonesia undoubtedly has the
ignore Asian public opinion demanding      worst human rights record. For
more than 30 years Indonesia
the inclusion of human rights and       has been ruled by a ruthless dic-
environment on the agenda ...        tator, trained by the Japanese
imperial army during the war
rn-  At the same time, however, European  years when Indonesians mistakenly
~th-  countries must approach human    welcomed their Japanese liberat-
mit   rights in the Asian region examining  ors. Even in the most volatile years
ried  the situation in each country individ-  of the Cold War, Indonesia faced no
s of  ually, and offering real support to  external threat to its territorial
of  countries undergoing democratic   integrity. In fact, since independence,
irg  changes.                          it has on three occasions embarked
~sts                                   on land grabbing adventures against
-tat-  Of the seven ASEAN partners, the  Malaysia, West New Guinea and East
Philippines is consolidating democ- Tirnor. The only serious threats that
ratic changes, with some difficulty,  Indonesia has faced have been of
'en   and the economy is improving. This  domestic nature and of the regimes
'on-  undermines the official Asian argum-  own making.
lice  ent that democracy and development
Lch-  cannot go hand in hand. Thailand has  Indonesia is now ripe for change.
op-   returned to civilian rule and though it  The next two to five years will see
vho   has a long way to go must be com-  Indonesia in a period of transition.
hts,  mended for the strides it has made.  This transition will be peaceful if
and   The two countries deserve encour-  Suharto acts with the wisdom of
ean   agement and support from the West.  Frederick De Klerk, or will be
uch   Malaysia, too, deserves some under-  marked by bloodshed if he clings to

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