Asean members adopt hands-off stance on drug war

by Sara Susanne D. Fabunan, November 14, 2017 at 12:20 am

THE 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations has taken a hands-off stance on the anti-drug measures adopted by its member-states despite concerns raised over possible human rights violations.

A draft of the Asean chairman’s statement leaked to the media on Monday said it welcomed the assistance of dialogue partners and other external parties in addressing the drug problem through “capacity building, intelligence information sharing and other forms of cooperation consistent with relevant international laws,” but said it would leave to each country to decide how to deal with the problem.

The statement also highlights the importance of “preserving the sovereign right of countries in deciding the most appropriate approaches to address their national drug situations.”

SUMMIT TONE. The 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit begins in Manila Monday, with the attendance of heads of the state/government of the member countries and the partner nations. Speaking at the opening ceremony, President Rodrigo Duterte says Asean should focus its attention on the issues of regional and international importance such as terrorism, piracy and armed robbery in the seas.

President Rodrigo Duterte, this year’s chairman of the Asean Summit, won the election on a promise to end the drug menace and launched a bloody war on drugs right after he took office last year. Since then, the campaign has claimed almost 4,000 lives.

In the statement, Asean also reaffirmed its commitment to a drug-free Asean as the bloc adopted the Asean Work Plan on Securing Communities Against Illicit Drugs, which will be implemented from 2016 to 2025.

In an afternoon press conference, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said that there is no mention of human rights issue during Duterte’s closed-door bilateral meeting with President Donald Trump.

The White House, on the other hand, said that Duterte’s war on drugs was “briefly” discussed during both leaders’ bilateral discussion.

“The conversation focused on ISIS, illegal drugs, and trade. Human rights briefly came up in the context of the Philippines’ fight against illegal drugs,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a White House pool report.

When asked to react on Sander’s statement, Roque insisted that there was no talk of human rights.

“There was no mention of human rights. There was no mention of extra-legal killings. There was only a rather lengthy discussion on the Philippine war on drugs with President Duterte doing most of the explaining,” Roque said.

Duterte earlier said in a press conference that he would not allow Trump or any of the world leaders participating the Asean Summit to discuss the Philippines’ human rights situation and his campaign against illegal drugs.

On the first day of the 31st Asean Summit Heads of State, hundreds of representatives of civil society and social movements across Southeast Asia participating in the parallel Asean Civil Society Conference/Asean Peoples’ Forum marched to the People Power Monument on Monday to protest the human rights atrocities, breakdown of the rule of law and unjust and inequitable economic policies in the region.

They pushed for transformative changes in the Asean and demanded that the social dimension be taken into account in the Asean economic integration.

SreySotheavy, executive director of the Alliance for Conflict Transformation Organization in Cambodia, pointed out the need to review the non-interference policy of the Asean, which she said“has served as an excuse for Asean governments to remain silent on human rights violations of authoritarian governments.”

“The Asean virtually condone these brutal acts as they hide behind the shield of ‘non-interference,” said JelenPaclarin, Chair of the ACSC/APF Regional Steering Committee.

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